Where did the Mojo Go?
How Low Testosterone Affects Men and Women.
Testosterone is essential for many functions in both the male and female body, though it is present in much higher doses in men. Testosterone is produced in the testes in men and by the ovaries in women and in small quantities by the adrenal glands in both sexes. This hormone is an androgen, meaning that it stimulates the development of male characteristics. In addition to its function in development, testosterone has many additional functions.
1. Decreased or Low Sex Drive
Testosterone plays a key role in the sex drive (libido) in both men and women. Though it occurs in both sexes, men may notice a more significant decline in sex drive as they age. This is more prevalent in a person with low testosterone (Low-T.) Though testosterone production typically decreases with age, it decreases at different rates. To understand “Low-T” it should be defined. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), low testosterone is diagnosed when levels fall below 300 ng/dL. A normal range is typically 300–1000 ng/dL. In my practice, we have found men enjoy their lives more in ranges on the higher end (700-1000 ng/dL.)
2. Difficulty with erection
Testosterone is not only important is the stimulation a person’s sex drive, but in men, it also helps in achieving and maintaining erections. Though the physiology involved in erections is much more extensive than this, it is important to understand testosterone’s key role. In addition, it is also important to rule-out any other health conditions or other factors that can cause erectile dysfunction, such as: diabetes mellitus, hypothyroid, hypertension, elevated cholesterol levels, smoking (due to damaging the small blood vessels that supply the necessary blood to achieve an erection), excess use of alcohol, depression and some antidepressant medications, stress/anxiety and others.
Low testosterone levels in both men and women, can be a factor in extreme fatigue or generalized decreased levels of energy. It is important to evaluate all causes of fatigue if you are tired all of the time despite getting plenty of sleep, feel sluggish, or lack motivation. A blood test can determine if low T is the cause.
4. Changes in your physical body
With low testosterone levels, a person can experience difficulty in losing weight, weight gain or increased body fat. Men can develop enlarged breast tissue (gynecomastia) or increased abdominal girth due to an imbalance between testosterone and estrogen. With this, loss of muscle mass can also occur. Testosterone aids in building muscle, therefore men with Low-T might notice a decrease in muscle mass or the inability to make gains that previously had been easy.
Additionally, men and women with Low-T may experience loss of bone tissue, or bone mass, known as Osteoporosis. This occurs more commonly in women, and low testosterone is only one factor in the condition, but it should be addressed because of the increased risk for fractures.
5. Mood changes
Mood changes in men are more frequently linked to low T than they are with women. It can also affect mental capacity. Men with Low-T are more at risk for depression, irritability, or a lack of focus.
6. Low semen production
Testosterone plays a role in the production of semen, (the fluid that aids in the motility of sperm) and therefore it can cause a loss of volume, which can contribute to fertility problems. Additionally noted, men may notice a decrease in the volume, and therefore force of their semen during ejaculation.
7. Hair loss
Many causes can lead to hair loss in men and women. Since testosterone plays a role in several body functions, including hair production, Low-T can lead to hair loss. While balding is a natural part of aging for many men, it doesn’t have to be, unless caused by an inherited trait of balding. Men with low T could experience hair loss of the body and face as well.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosis is made by a simple blood test. Though a “stand alone” testosterone test will diagnose Low-T, it is not sufficient to treat the condition. Therefore, your provider should order a panel of lab tests. It is important to know the overall health status of the patient being treated in addition to specific conditions that may complicate treatment.
Many forms of testosterone replacement therapy are available. Testosterone can be supplemented by creams, tablets, injections, and pellet therapy. The most stable and longest-lasting delivery is by pellet insertion. This is an in-office procedure that requires no down-time. The additional benefit is that the therapy only requires a visit to the provider’s office once every 3-6 months. Injections can cause a spike in estrogen levels in men, which can lead to the problem of gynecomastia mentioned above. Therefore, it must be followed closely. Typically, these patients require an injection one to two times per week.
With the oral tablets, absorption rates can vary because it is a tablet that dissolves in the mouth, thus making it less effective than pellet therapy and injections. And finally, testosterone creams are the least-controlled and least-effective delivery form available. The creams are also the most risky for women. If a man uses testosterone cream, and the woman does not have Low-T, her levels can dramatically rise, and she can start to grow facial hair, develop frontal balding, thinning hair, acne, deepening of her voice, infertility, and more.
So, as you can see, it is extremely important to know your levels so the cause of your symptoms can be determined and the proper treatment started. Dr. Ansell has over 35 years of experience in the medical field and over 20 years of experience in the functional medicine field. Call her at 972-291-1992 to schedule an appointment for evaluation to get back on track to your best health.