Testosterone is crucial for building muscle and fueling your sex drive.
But receptors for the hormone actually exist throughout your body, from your brain to your bones to your blood vessels.
So if youre low on T, the health outcomes could widen far beyond the gym and the bedroom, says University of Washington endocrinologist Bradley Anawalt, M.D ., a spokesperson for the Endocrine Society.
The eight symptoms that are consistent with arent proof of low testosterone on their own. Youll require two blood tests proving low levelsusually around 300 nanograms per declileter( ng/ dL) or lower, depending on the labbefore your doctor makes an official low testosterone diagnosis, Dr. Anawalt says.
The good news is, if low T is truly to blame, many of the health side effects of low testosterone can be reversed, or at least improved, with testosterone therapy.
1. LOW TESTOSTERONE SYMPTOM: YOUR SEX DRIVE DISAPPEARS .
Perhaps the best-known, quickest, and most common effect of low T is low libido, says urologist Philip Werthman, M.D ., director of the Center for Male Reproductive Medicine and Vasectomy Reversal in Los Angeles.
In fact, nearly every patient who comes to its term of office with known or suspected low T complains of a lack of sex appetite. Besides wanting less sex, men with low T may also masturbate less and report fewer fantasies and erotic dreams.
Brain areas involved with sexual desire, including the amygdala, are packed with testosterone receptors, says S. Adam Ramin, M.D ., urologic surgeon and medical director of Urology Cancer Specialists in Los Angeles.
The hormone fits inside them like a lock inside a key, illuminating them up to arouse you. Without it, youre missing a critical step in the turn-on process.
This lack of desire to have sex can cause problems with erectings, though low T doesnt directly affect the plumbing involved in getting or biding hard, Dr. Ramin says.
Related : The Mens Health Guide To Erectile Dysfunction: What Causes It, How to Fix It, and How to Avoid It 2. LOW TESTOSTERONE SYMPTOM: YOUR MUSCLES SHRINK .
Ample testosterone sets your body in an anabolic, or muscle-building, state by helping your body create and assemble proteins that form the building blocks of lean mass.
When your testosterone levels drop, your body turns catabolic instead, breaking down muscle tissue instead of building it up, Dr. Werthman says.
At first, you might notice that its tougher to push as much weight at the gym or construct muscle, he notes.
Related : Whats the Most Muscle You Can Gain ?
And after a few weeks of low T, you can expect to lose muscle mass, Dr. Anawalt says.
In fact, in one Japanese analyze, men with low free testosterone levelsa measure of the amount of hormone available to bind to receptorshad doubled to triple health risks of muscle loss with aging as those with normal levels.
3. LOW TESTOSTERONE SYMPTOM: YOUR PENIS MAY GET SMALLER, TOO .
Without a steady flowing of testosterone, the tissues in your penis, scrotum, and testicles can atrophy, or wither, says Dr. Ramin.
As a result, your penis might lose duration and circumference. You may notice your balls shrink, toothey often shrivel to half the size and turn squishy instead of firm, he says.
Though testosterone replacement therapy wont bring back your testicular volume, when it comes to your penis, the therapy has a good chance of restoring its glory, Dr. Ramin says.( In fact, testosterone therapy in sons with a micropenis can increase different sizes by up to an inch and a half, according to a study in the Indian Journal of Urology .)
4. LOW TESTOSTERONE SYMPTOM: YOUR BELLY GROWS .
Even as you lose size where it countings, you gain it where it hurts, Dr. Anawalt says.
In one Australian study, men with prostate cancer gained 14 percent more body fat and 22 percent more visceral fat after one year of androgen deprivation therapy, a therapy which turns off testosterones effects.
Visceral fat is the deep abdominal fat that forms around your organs and increases your risk for diabetes and heart disease.
In men, low testosterone may increase the activity of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase, the study writers suspect. This compound drives circulating building block called lipids into visceral fat cells, plumping them up.
5. LOW TESTOSTERONE SYMPTOM: YOUR MEMORY FALTERS .
Trouble with thinking and memory often occurs in humen with low T, Dr. Werthman says.
In 2015 survey from Australia, men whose testosterone levels declined over 5 years also experienced a drop in ratings on tests of their mental function and memory.
Besides the amygdala, areas of the brain important for memory and attentionsuch as the cerebrumalso have testosterone receptors.
When theres not sufficient of the hormone pumping in to those receptors, your brain cells may not be able to function as well, such studies authors note.
6. LOW TESTOSTERONE SYMPTOM: YOUR MOOD TANKS .
Some of the side effects of low testosteronesuch as sexual dysfunction and weight gaincan bring on the blues. But theres also evidence of a more direct effect of low testosterone on mood.
According to research in the Endocrine Journal , 23 percent of young men with freshly diagnosed low testosterone met the criteria for depression, compared to only 5 percent of young guys with normal levels of the hormone.
Empty testosterone receptors in brain areas links between mood are likely responsible for your depressed state, Dr. Ramin says.
Whats more, mood disorders like depression or anxiety can kick off a vicious cycle, he notesdepression can inhibit your testicles ability to produce testosterone, worsening the problem.
7. LOW TESTOSTERONE SYMPTOM: YOUR BONES WEAKEN .
Bone is actually living tissue, constantly broken down and rebuilt, Dr. Ramin says.
When testosterone levels fall, your bone breaks down faster than your body can build it back up.
As a result, youre at a higher danger of low bone density, osteoporosis, and fractures, Dr. Anawalt says.
8. LOW TESTOSTERONE SYMPTOM: YOUR HEART MIGHT BE AT RISK .
The effect of testosterone levels on health risks of heart problems has stoked controversy among experts, Dr. Anawalt says.
On one side, low levels of testosterone may be linked to heart problems. In fact, one analyse from the U.K. detected humen with low T had a greater risk of dying from heart disease than men with normal levels.
This may be because testosterone can help open up blood vessels to the heart, allowing blood to flow more freely.
But on the flip side, some studies have suggested that testosterone therapyespecially in older men or those with existing heart conditionsmight increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. Experts think it may thicken the blood, making a clot more likely.
It seems that the extra testosterone might be creating levels too high, Dr. Anawalt says.
So if youre a candidate for testosterone therapy, make sure you talk to your doctor about the benefits and the risks, Dr. Werthman says.
Your doctor may test your testosterone levels after you first start therapy or change dosagesor sometimes between shoots, if youre receiving treatment by injectionto make sure your levels arent surging too high, Dr. Anawalt says.
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