Common Complications Of Low Testosterone In Men

Testosterone is a sex hormone that regulates many critical bodily functions, such as libido, sperm production, development of bones, and blood cell production. 

Although the levels of the hormone spike during puberty, it usually starts to decline at the age of 30. 

Low testosterone can cause significant physical and emotional changes to a man’s body. 

We now know that abnormally low testosterone levels cause erectile dysfunction, low sex drive, loss of muscular strength, and depression. 

Factors like lifestyle (alcohol and drug abuse), injury, and diseases (infections and kidney damage) impair testosterone production. 

However, age remains the most crucial determinant of testosterone levels in men. The full details of how these factors reduce testosterone levels remain largely unknown. 

In this article, we discuss some of the common complications of low testosterone. We highlight the usefulness of positive lifestyle changes that can help maintain healthy levels of testosterone.

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What is testosterone?

Testosterone is an important hormone produced primarily in the testis (men) and ovaries (women). However, its level is usually much lower in women compared to men, where the production spikes during puberty and drops after the early thirties. 

Hormones, including testosterone, are essential messengers that help direct changes in the body. Both the brain and the pituitary gland regulate testosterone levels, and once produced, the hormone moves through the blood to perform essential functions. 

Specifically, testosterone regulates male characteristics, fertility, muscle mass, how men store fat, and red blood cell production. Testosterone level is also associated with mood and overall mental health in men. Note that it has similar functions in women.

Testosterone levels generally decrease with age; as you get older, you tend to have low blood testosterone levels. Some men have low testosterone levels below the normal range (within 300 to 100 ng/dL) for their age. 

This condition is called testosterone deficiency (TD) syndrome (low testosterone), meaning the body does not have enough of this vital hormone. TD is associated with a group of symptoms and complications, discussed below.

Complications & Side Effects Of Low Testosterone In Men 

Decreasing levels of testosterone is a natural part of aging. Several causes other than aging can also lead to low testosterone, including injuries to the testicles, cancer treatment, diseases affecting the brain or the pituitary gland. 

Without adequate amounts of testosterone, men develop a range of complications, including sexual dysfunction, psychological problems, physical changes, sleep disturbances, and cardiovascular complications (Matsumoto, 2002; Travison et al., 2007).

Sexual dysfunction

Low testosterone can reduce the quality of a man’s sex life. Erectile dysfunction, difficulty with getting and maintaining an erection, is common in men with low levels of testosterone. 

Moreover, the desire to engage in sexual activity (libido) decreases as this important hormone level drops. These factors can lead to reduced sexual activities, which can increase the risk of psychological problems.

Low testosterone can also affect a man’s fertility, reducing their ability to have children. However, the sexual complications associated with this deficiency often develop gradually, providing enough opportunity for clinical intervention. 

Psychological problems

In addition to the physical complications, low testosterone levels can increase your risk of emotional disturbances (Seidman and Walsh, 1999). 

The condition has been found to increase the feeling of sadness and depression. In some affected men, it reduces their memory and concentration, affecting their motivation and confidence. 

The effect of low testosterone on mental health can result from a combination of factors, including irritability, decreased sexual activities, and the worsening of existing mental health problems.

Cardiovascular complications

Generally, men have a higher rate of cardiovascular diseases than women, and blood-related problems increase with age.

Recent data shows that low testosterone affects the cardiovascular system in several ways, ultimately leading to a higher incidence of cardiovascular complications (Brodin et al., 2011). 

Additionally, diseases associated with poor vascular health, such as diabetes, are more common in men with declining testosterone levels (Grossmann, 2011).

Physical changes

Several undesirable physical changes can happen to your body due to low testosterone levels. Part of the natural function of this hormone is to increase muscle mass, grow body hair, strengthen and maintain bones, and overall masculine form. 

Consistently, decreases in testosterone have been shown to 1) increase body fat, 2) reduce muscle strength and mass, and 3) weaken bones and cause skeletal problems. Some of the changes can be attributed to differences in normal metabolism, as testosterone plays a role in this key body function.

Sleep disturbances

Low testosterone is associated with changes in sleep patterns. It has been linked with insomnia, difficulty in falling and staying asleep. 

Unfortunately, changes in the body due to sleeping difficulties can lead to low testosterone and psychological problems. This situation creates a dangerous feedback loop where low testosterone causes more reduction in testosterone levels and the associated complications. 

Note that the body converts a small amount of circulating testosterone to estrogen, which also reduces with low testosterone levels. Thus, some of these effects of low testosterone are paradoxically linked to the corresponding decline in estrogen. Usually, your doctor should help you identify the correct cause of your symptoms and the right cause of action to take.

Conclusion

Testosterone is a male sex hormone, which is produced in large quantities in males compared to females. Its levels start to decline after age 30, but this decrease is a natural process. 

Some men experience reductions that are too low to sustain the normal functions of this testosterone, such as sex drive, sperm production, muscle strength, fat distribution, bone strength, and mental wellbeing. This situation can bring significant physical and psychological complications.

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Sources

  1. Brodin, E., Vikan, T., Hansen, J.-B., Svartberg, J., 2011. Testosterone, hemostasis, and cardiovascular diseases in men. Presented at the Seminars in thrombosis and hemostasis, Thieme Medical Publishers, pp. 087–094. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21249606/
  2. Grossmann, M., 2011. Low testosterone in men with type 2 diabetes: significance and treatment. The journal of clinical endocrinology & metabolism 96, 2341–2353. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21646372/
  3. Matsumoto, A.M., 2002. Andropause: clinical implications of the decline in serum testosterone levels with aging in men. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences 57, M76–M99. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11818427/
  4. Seidman, S.N., Walsh, B.T., 1999. Testosterone and depression in aging men. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 7, 18–33. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9919317/
  5. Travison, T.G., Araujo, A.B., Kupelian, V., O’Donnell, A.B., McKinlay, J.B., 2007. The relative contributions of aging, health, and lifestyle factors to serum testosterone decline in men. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 92, 549–555. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17148559/
Alternative Text

Dr. Chinedu Anthony Anene

Dr. Chinedu Anene is a biomedical researcher, interested in the epi-genetic links between angiogenesis, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. He is interested in using bioinformatics and machine learning approaches to translate knowledge of molecular biology to disease biomarkers and novel therapeutic targets. He has expertise in preparing readily accessible reference materials.

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