We have all heard of testosterone. The hormone is intricately linked in the popular consciousness to ideas of ‘maleness. But what are the health implications for men with falling levels of testosterone?
What is testosterone?
Both men and women produce testosterone. In women, small quantities of testosterone are made in the ovaries and adrenal glands. Research suggests that falling levels of testosterone can affect a women’s sex drive. Men produce far higher levels of testosterone, and the hormone plays a roll in the development of a number of physical features; including muscle mass, chest hair, and a deep-sounding voice. It can also affect energy levels and libido, earning it the often-used title of the ‘male hormone’.
Effects on health
It is natural for men to experience falling levels of testosterone after the age of 30. For some men this has no obvious effect, while others can experience some of the following symptoms:
- Erectile dysfunction (ED)
- Low sex drive
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of body hair
When men experience a dramatic fall in testosterone due to reduced production of the hormone in the testes, this is known as hypogonadism. Our understanding of hypogonadism is scant and a debate still exists as to how much this can be linked to the collection of symptoms experienced by older men that are unhelpfully termed the ‘male menopause’.
Many of the symptoms once thought to be attributed to falling testosterone levels are now believed to be the result of lifestyle factors such as:
- Excess alcohol
- Lack of sleep
- Poor diet
- Related health issues including heart disease and diabetes
Effects of testosterone on erectile dysfunction
A number of health factors can lead to erectile dysfunction, including:
- Heart disease
- Raised cholesterol
- Falling testosterone levels
The science behind how testosterone affects ED is not clear, as some men with low levels of the hormone can maintain healthy erections, while others with normal levels of testosterone cannot. What we do know is that falls in testosterone play a role in a number of other conditions linked to ED, such as fatigue, depression and loss of libido.
Signs of falling testosterone
Here are of the telltale signs that could signify falling levels of testosterone:
- Loss of interest in sex
- Problems with maintaining an erection
- Less need to shave as often
- Smooth patches in body hair
- Shrinking testicles
- Changes to the texture of the skin, becoming smoother
Treatments for low testosterone
Hormone replacement therapy can be used to bring the body’s testosterone levels back to normal.
There are a number of treatments you can try for both erectile dysfunction and loss of testosterone. It is recommended that you consult your doctor with any concerns.