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Low Testosterone

As men age, testosterone levels tend to decline, which is normal. However, low T can cause unwanted symptoms and sometimes health concerns.

Overview

Testosterone  is the hormone required to make sperm and therefore is integral to sexual development, function, and interest. Testosterone also contributes to the growth of muscles and bones. It is produced by three glands: the hypothalamus, in the brain; the anterior pituitary gland, at the base of the skull; and the testicles.

As men age, testosterone levels tend to decline, which is normal. In fact, after age 30, most men begin to experience the symptoms associated with this gradual decrease . However, men of all ages may experience low testosterone due to other causes. The American Urology Association gauges low testosterone, or low T, as less than 300 nanograms per deciliter.

Causes

The most common conditions that contribute to low T, after aging, include the following :

  • Obesity
  • Heavy, prolonged alcohol consumption
  • Autoimmune or inflammatory diseases
  • Injury to, infection of, or the loss of a testicle
  • Chemotherapy or radiation treatment (for cancer)
  • Genetic abnormalities, such as Klinefelter Syndrome (an extra X chromosome)
  • A dysfunction of the pituitary gland or hypothalamus

Also, certain medications, including antidepressants and pain narcotics, as well as those prescribed to treat prostate cancer, can lower testosterone levels.

Symptoms

When testosterone levels decline, the effects can be both physical and mental. Here are some of the most common signs:

  • Diminished sex drive
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Depression
  • Fatigue and/or trouble concentrating
  • A decrease in muscle mass with an increase in body fat
  • Loss of body hair
  • Weakening bones
  • A change in cholesterol levels

Diagnosis

If symptoms of low T are detected during an examination, the physician will likely run one or more blood tests to measure the total blood testosterone level. This might include a test of the luteinizing hormone, which controls how testosterone is made. Other tests might include:

  • Follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH) – This test, which may require a semen sample, gauges sperm-making functions and is typically for men who want to have children.
  • Imaging – An MRI may be ordered to get an image of the pituitary gland, while a bone density (dual X-ray) test would measure if bones are weakened.
  • Chromosome tests – Here, blood samples are taken to detect genetic defects, such as Klinefelter Syndrome .
  • A hormone test – This test is performed if there are signs of breast development.

 

Treatment

Many low T patients are prescribed testosterone therapy, or medications designed to elevate hormone levels. It can take two to three months for the benefits of these medications to take full effect.

Therapies may include:

  • Testosterone injections – these injections can be short- or long-acting and administered weekly biweekly, or monthly.
  • Oral patch – a tablet-sized patch is applied above the incisor (canine) tooth and releases a drug over a 12-hour period.
  • Nasal pump – this medication is pumped into each nostril, usually three times a day.
  • Implants – small testosterone pellets are inserted under the skin of the upper hip or buttocks, under a local anesthesia. The slow-dissolving treatment is released over three to six months, depending on the number of pellets.

*Patients who have been prescribed medication for low T can pick it up at The Urology Group Pharmacy in Norwood or have it shipped directly to their homes. CLICK HERE to learn more about our pharmacy.

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