Low testosterone, also known as “Low T,” is a common condition in men as they get older. Testosterone levels peak around age 30 and naturally decline with age. However, because the decline is gradual, many men do not realize the impact that a low testosterone level can have on their quality of life and overall health.
Testosterone is a sex hormone that is produced primarily in a man’s testicles. During puberty, testosterone plays a key role in a man’s physical development; it makes hair grow on the face, builds muscles and causes the voice to deepen. Later in life, testosterone also plays an important role in a man’s sexual function and metabolic health.
Decreasing levels of testosterone have long been considered a natural part of the aging process. The older a man gets, the lower his testosterone levels may drop. Low testosterone levels can have real and important health effects, especially on a man’s sex life. Men with low testosterone may have trouble getting and keeping an erection. The erections they do have may come less often and not as strongly as before. A man’s desire to have sex (libido) also decreases as testosterone drops. In addition, low testosterone has been associated with diabetes, high blood pressure, weight gain, depression, and decreased quality of life due to a lack of energy.
Men experiencing reduced sex drives or erection issues should make an appointment with their primary care provider; a blood test can help identify low testosterone and rule out any serious causes.
Testosterone levels can rise and fall during the day and more than one test may be needed, or a physician may encourage a morning blood test, which is when testosterone levels are highest.
If testosterone levels are low, a testosterone replacement therapy can be prescribed in the form of a topical gel, an injection, a patch or implant. Testosterone replacement therapy can help increase sex drive and energy levels, and may decrease a man’s risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and depression.
The unknowns associated with aging are daunting, but may not necessarily be something men must live with. Low testosterone levels can be supplemented, helping men take back an important part of their lives.
Dr. Brain Steixner is a board-certified urologist treating men, women, and children for a variety of urological issues at Barton Urology in South Lake Tahoe. To view a list of patient services, visit bartonhealth.org/urology or call 530-543-5400.