Maintaining optimal hormonal balance is vital for men, as low testosterone can significantly impact one's quality of life. From fatigue and reduced libido to muscle loss and mood swings, the effects of low testosterone can diverse and often go unnoticed. In this article, we will explain what low testosterone is, its signs and symptoms, its underlying causes, and the effective treatment options available in Singapore.
Testosterone, a primary male sex hormone produced in the testicles, plays a key role in the development of male characteristics. During puberty, testosterone facilitates the growth of body and facial hair, deepens the voice, and promotes muscle mass. Testosterone is also closely linked to sexual drive and sperm production. Additionally, testosterone also affects muscle and bone mass, the distribution of fat in males and red blood cell production.
Given that every body is different, there is no exact "normal" level for men. Instead, there is a range of testosterone levels that is considered normal.
If your testosterone levels are between 300 and 1,000 nanograms per deciliter of blood, this is considered a normal range.
As the name implies, low testosterone refers to testosterone levels below the normal range for men. As mentioned earlier, normal testosterone levels range between 300 and 1,000 nanograms per deciliter of blood (ng/dL).
You will be considered to have clinically low testosterone, or having testosterone deficiency syndrome (TD), if your testosterone reading is below 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL).
Having low testosterone is a common men's health issue. In a study done by Frontiers in Endocrinology, it reports that almost 40% of men over the age of 45 experience clinically low testosterone levels.
One of the most common symptoms of low testosterone is having a low sex drive (low libido), a decreased interest in sexual activity or sexual thoughts. While men do experience a reduced libido with age, low testosterone can cause a more noticeable decline in libido especially in younger men.
Testosterone plays a key role in signaling the release of nitric oxide, a molecule needed to produce an erection. If you have low testosterone, you might find it difficult to get and maintain an erection.
Testosterone has a significant impact on hair growth. Low testosterone levels can lead to a stalled hair growth and may even result in hair loss. In addition to affecting scalp hair, low testosterone can also impact facial hair growth.
Testosterone plays a significant role in muscle and bone health. Low testosterone levels can lead to decreased muscle and bone mass, increasing the risk of fractures.
Low testosterone can cause an increase in body fat. The increased body fat can also cause men with low testosterone to develop gynecomastia (enlargement of breasts).
Testosterone plays a vital role in red blood cell production, a critical process for delivering oxygen to organs and removing carbon dioxide from the body.
According to a study conducted by Arch Intern Med, older men and women with low testosterone levels were more likely to have lower red blood cell counts and develop anemia.
Low testosterone levels can unfortunately make you more susceptible to mood disorders like depression and can also hinder your ability to concentrate.
Low testosterone can affect your sleep quality, making you feel more sluggish during the day. Some men with low testosterone levels have reported feeling fatigued despite getting enough sleep.
While testosterone levels do naturally decrease with aging (usually starting from your 30s onwards), there are other factors that may cause low testosterone.
Your body's ability to produce enough testosterone might be hindered if you are currently overweight or obese. Studies have shown that having a higher percentage of body fat has been linked to a lower production of gonadotropin, a hormone responsible for producing testosterone.
Physical injury and damage to your testicles can prevent them from producing testosterone. Testicular cancer can also affect testicular function and your testosterone levels.
Medication used to treat cancer or others can also affect testicular function and your body's ability to produce testosterone.
Health conditions like hypothyroidism, diabetes, kidney failure and certain autoimmune diseases may affect your testicular function and your testosterone levels.
If your testosterone levels are on the low end (but not low enough to be classified as clinically low testosterone), you might be able to increase your testosterone levels by incorporating some changes to your lifestyle and diet.
Getting more exercise could potentially help you increase your testosterone levels. Consider picking up resistance training like weightlifting, which has been shown by studies to improve testosterone levels in the short-term and long-term.
In a study conducted by the university of Extremadura, researchers found that men who regularly engaged in resistance training three times a week over the course of a month saw an increase in their testosterone levels both immediately after their workouts and in the long run.
Another exercise that has proven to be an effective way to boost testosterone levels is high-intensity interval training (HIIT). A study from 2012 found that men who alternated between 90 seconds of intense treadmill running and a 90-second rest period were more successful at boosting their free testosterone levels compared to running for 45 minutes straight.
As mentioned earlier, obesity could be a potential cause of low testosterone levels. In a study conducted in 2014, they found that men with obesity had 40 - 50% lower testosterone levels than men who were within a healthy BMI range.
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Getting enough sleep is always good for the body, especially if you have low testosterone levels. According to a study published in the World Journal of Urology, researchers found a potential link between insufficient sleep and lower testosterone levels.
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Supplements such as ashwagandha, zinc, magnesium, and vitamin D might be able to help you improve your testosterone levels.
In a study published in 2010, researchers found that men who took 5g of ashwagandha everyday experienced a significant increase in testosterone levels. They attributed this increase to ashwagandha's ability to reduce cortisol levels. By doing so, ashwagandha effectively shifted the body's hormone production to anabolic hormones (which include testosterone and DHEA).
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Also known as androgen replacement therapy, Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) is commonly prescribed treatment for men with clinically low testosterone levels (< 300ng/dL). TRT involves using prescription testosterone to increase your testosterone levels. This can be done via tablet, a transdermal patch, a topical gel, an implant or as in injection.
While TRT is effective and can provide quick relief for the symptoms brought on by low testosterone, it is not without side effects. Common side effects of TRT include:
It is important that you speak to your doctor before starting any testosterone treatment to ensure that it is suitable for you.
As mentioned earlier, testosterone levels can vary widely among individuals. While it is true that obesity can cause lower testosterone levels, being skinny or underweight does not necessarily mean that the individual has low testosterone. Some skinny men may have naturally lower levels of testosterone due to genetic factors or other health reasons.
Currently, there is no scientific research to support that there is a direct correlation between being skinny and having lower testosterone levels.
As mentioned earlier, testosterone plays a significant role in the development and maintenance of muscle mass. Here's how low testosterone can hinder your ability to bulk and put on muscle:
Low testosterone can lead to reduced muscle strength, limiting your ability to lift heavier weights and perform intense workouts. Unfortunately, this could impede your progress in building muscle.
Testosterone aids in muscle protein synthesis, the process in which your body builds and repairs muscle tissue. With low testosterone levels, this process becomes less effective, making it more difficult to build and maintain muscle mass.
Low testosterone can cause an increase in body fat, especially visceral fat - fat stored around the internal organs. Excess body fat can interfere with muscle definition and make it more difficult to build lean muscle.
Testosterone aids with the post-workout recovery by reducing inflammation and repairing damaged muscle tissue. With low testosterone, your muscle might take longer to recover, leading to less effective workouts and hindering your ability to build and put on muscle.
Let's first go through how sperm is produced.
Your pituitary gland, a small pea-sized gland located at the base of your brain, is in charge of releasing several important hormones, namely follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).
The luteinizing hormone (LH) signals to your testicles to produce testosterone. Testosterone then works together with follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) to produce sperm.
If you have low testosterone levels, you produce less sperm.
While this doesn't necessarily mean you and your partner won't be able to conceive, it does lower your chances. Lower testosterone levels also cause low libido and erectile dysfunction, which can also lower your chances of conceiving.
If your erectile dysfunction (ED) is caused by low testosterone, it is not unsafe for you to take Viagra or Cialis. However, several studies have suggested that taking these ED medications might not be as effective in such cases. You may need to use testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) alongside Viagra or Cialis, though this will depend on the assessment of your doctor.
If you are experiencing symptoms of low testosterone or erectile dysfunction, it is advisable that you consult a doctor. Here at Noah, our doctors are best equipped with the knowledge to help you ascertain what is causing your testosterone levels to drop and will be able to advise you on the best treatment suitable for you.
Articles featured on Noah are for informational purposes only and should not be constituted as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. If you're looking for a healthcare provider, click here.