What is testosterone?
Testosterone is considered to be the "male hormone" that's produced in men by the testes. Although women's ovaries produce some testosterone, the hormone is produced in much higher concentrations in men and it is responsible for many of the secondary sex characteristics seen in men such as a deeper voice and hair on the chest, in addition to contributing to a healthy libido, building muscle mass, and maintaining energy levels.
The problems associated with high testosterone levels are infrequent and rare in middle-aged and elderly men who are not receiving testosterone or other steroid treatments. When the testosterone level becomes out of balance, it usually becomes too low rather than too elevated.
What are the signs and symptoms of low testosterone levels in men?
The most common "out of balance" testosterone levels are found to be on the low side of normal; this occurs because a male's highest testosterone level usually peaks at about age 20, and then it decreases slowly with age. It has been suggested that a 1% decrease in testosterone level per year is not unusual for middle-aged (30 to 50 years old) and older males. While this decrease may not be noticeable in some men, others may experience significant changes starting in their middle-aged years or more commonly at age 60 and above. This drop in testosterone levels is sometimes termed hypogonadism, "male menopause" or andropause.
Low testosterone levels may result in a decline in:
- Physical energy
- Diminished mental aggressiveness
Additional symptoms of in low-T in men may include:
What are normal or average testosterone levels in men?
In general, the normal range in males is about 270 to 1070 ng/dL with an average level of 679 ng/dL. A normal male testosterone level peaks at about age 20, and then it slowly declines. Testosterone levels above or below the normal range are considered by many to be out of balance. Moreover, some researchers suggest that the healthiest men have testosterone levels between 400 - 600 ng/dL.
What are the benefits of higher than normal testosterone levels?
Examples of benefits, which are modest, of men having higher than average testosterone levels include:
What are the disadvantages of having higher than average testosterone levels?
Examples of drawbacks or disadvantages of men having higher than average testosterone levels include:
- Men tend to consume more alcoholic beverages.
- Men are more likely to smoke.
- Men are more likely to get injured.
- According to some researchers, the higher the testosterone level, the more likely men are to participate in risk-taking behavior (sexual, injury risk, and even criminal activity).
What are anabolic steroids, and what their side effects?
Both men and women that utilize anabolic steroids to gain an athletic "edge" (for example, some professional athletes) or to increase muscle mass (for example, some bodybuilders) may experience high levels of testosterone and develop complications, and side effects, for example:
What is the treatment for low-T in men?
There is treatment available low testosterone levels. Doctors may prescribe medications that contain testosterone such as:
- Topical creams
What men should not use testosterone therapy?
Not all men may be candidates for this type of treatment.
- Testosterone should not be used in men with suspected or known prostate cancer or breast cancer. Moreover, the testosterone may put a male that has kidney, liver, or heart problems at higher risk for complications from these diseases.
- Before testosterone therapy is initiated, it is very important to check with your doctor to determine what treatment, if any, is right for you.
How often should a man have his testosterone levels checked?
So, how does one ensure that testosterone levels remain in balance? Some doctors suggest that monitoring testosterone levels every five years, starting at age 35, is a reasonable strategy to follow. If the testosterone level falls too low or if the individual has the signs and symptoms of low testosterone levels described above, testosterone therapy can be considered. However, once testosterone therapy is initiated, testosterone levels should be closely monitored to make sure that the testosterone level does not become too high, as this may cause stress on the individual, and high testosterone levels may result in some of the negative problems (described previously) seen.
Finding the appropriate balance of testosterone is possible through discussions with your doctor, and it requires your willingness to have testosterone levels checked before the initiation of therapy and then checked routinely in the future.
Medically reviewed by Michael Wolff, MD; American Board of Urology
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