What is testosterone? What does testosterone really do?
Testosterone is one of the hormones we all make; men produce more testosterone, which is why men tend to have more muscle strength, sex drive, and bone strength. Low testosterone (also called “low T”) can cause unpleasant symptoms for both men and women.
What are the symptoms of low T?
Most people first notice feeling tired, especially later in the day. It is also common to feel depression and see increased body fat. After a year or more of having low T, men develop other symptoms like muscle weakness, lowered libido (interest in sex or taking a long time to climax), decreased morning erections, body hair loss, and may even grow breasts or have weaker bones. Normal aging causes some of the same changes in men with low T, such as less energy or interest in sex.
There is a questionnaire called ADAM that helps men to describe the type and severity of their low testosterone symptoms:
- Do you have a decrease in libido (sex drive)?
- Do you have a lack of energy?
- Do you have a decrease in strength or endurance?
- Have you lost height?
- Have you noticed a decreased “enjoyment of life”
- Are you sad and grumpy?
- Are your erections less strong?
- Have you noticed a recent deterioration in your ability to play sports?
- Are you falling asleep after dinner?
- Has there been a recent deterioration in your work performance?
How do I know what my testosterone levels are?
A panel of lab tests, which are all run on a single blood tube sample, measures both the testosterone and how your body uses it. The test will also check some things that affect how you use your testosterone and things that are changed by the T levels, like checking for anemia.
What causes low T in men?
A low T may be a normal part of aging, an injury to the testicles, treatment for cancer, poor functioning pituitary gland, liver or kidney damage, and some rare genetic conditions.
Why would you take testosterone?
When people start taking testosterone, they usually notice changes like increased daytime energy, better nighttime sleep, stronger muscles, and improved sex performance in about three to six months. For example, a study of men who had testosterone shots for ten weeks increased their bench-press weight by 22 percent, squat weight by 45 percent, and muscle mass by 5 percent. Some people also report feeling a “sharper” mental function and improved mood.
How is low T in men treated?
Low T can be treated by taking testosterone in different forms, including a shot, gel, or capsule. Low T is sometimes not treated, especially in older men. You can schedule a consultation to explore options more.
What are the risks of taking Testosterone?
Taking testosterone can increase your red blood cells. This is the opposite of anemia, called erythrocytosis or polycythemia. When on testosterone shots, the blood count will be checked yearly. A mild increase in red blood cells is treated by donating blood. Some are worried that testosterone treatments might increase the risk of heart issues like blood pressure or heart attacks; fortunately, studies have not found that testosterone makes that risk any higher. The expected side effect of testosterone is reducing the sperm count while taking the shots. If a man on testosterone decides to try for a baby, they stop the shots, and the sperm count will return to the same as before the shots in a few months.