Answers FAQ

Low Testosterone (Low T) FAQs

Reviewed by Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

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Q:Testosterone is a chemical found only in men. True or False?

A:False. Testosterone is a steroid hormone which is made in the testes in males and in the ovaries in women (a minimal amount is also made in the adrenal glands).

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Q:Menopause is responsible for low testosterone in women. True or False?

A:False. Menopause itself does not seem to play a role in a reduction of testosterone levels in women. With advancing age, in both men and women, the body produces decreasing amounts of testosterone over time.

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Q:Testosterone is the most important hormone in whom?

A:Testosterone is the most important hormone in men.

While it helps to maintain sex drive, sperm production, pubic hair and body hair, testosterone is also responsible for maintaining muscles and bones. When testosterone production is low in men, sexual dysfunction is a common complaint; but other nonspecific symptoms such as depression, mood changes, weight gain, or fatigue, have been reported.

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Q:In men, low testosterone, or low-T, is also known as what?

A:In men, low testosterone, or low-T, is also known as male menopause, andropause and late-onset hypogonadism.

An upsurge in media attention regarding the so-called "male menopause" has left many men rushing to their doctor to treat symptoms they believe may be related to low levels of testosterone. The thought behind the concept of male menopause is that the decline in testosterone levels that occurs as men age may produce a characteristic and potentially treatable set of symptoms.

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Q:What are symptoms of low-T in both men and women?

A:Symptoms of low-T in both men and women include hot flashes, loss of sexual desire and changes in bones.

Low levels of testosterone in men can affect a man in the following ways:
- Loss of sexual interest and function
- Erection problems
- Increased breast size
- Hot flashes
- Problems with memory and concentration
- Mood problems such as irritability and depression
- Smaller and softer testicles
- Loss of muscle strength and weakened bones

Symptoms of low testosterone levels in women include:
- Hot flashes
- Irritability
- Loss of sexual desire
- Sleep disturbances
- Loss of muscle mass
- Decreased bone density (osteoporosis)

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Q:What regulates testosterone production?

A:Testosterone production is regulated by hormones released from the brain.

The hypothalamus and pituitary gland, located in the brain, produce hormonal signals that ultimately result in the production of testosterone. These hormones travel through the bloodstream to activate the sex organs in both men and women.

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Q:There are no treatments for low testosterone in men. True or False?

A:False. In men, low testosterone levels in the body can be supplemented by hormone replacement with testosterone. Testosterone replacement therapy can be prescribed as an intramuscular injection usually given on a biweekly basis; as a patch or gel placed on the skin, or as putty that is applied to the gums of the mouth. Each of the treatments has its risks and benefits. The decision as to which form of testosterone to use depends upon the clinical situation. Discussions between the patient and health care professional often helps decide which medication to use.

In the United States there are currently no preparations that are FDA approved for testosterone replacement for women.

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Q:Men with what kinds of medical conditions are more likely to have low testosterone?

A:Diabetes. Men with diabetes are more likely to have low testosterone. Moreover, men with low testosterone are more likely to develop diabetes later. Testosterone helps the body's tissues take up more blood sugar in response to insulin. Men with low testosterone more often have insulin resistance.

Note: Scientists aren't sure whether diabetes causes low testosterone, or the other way around. Still, a link between diabetes and low testosterone is well established.

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Q:What types of men are likely to have low testosterone?

A:Research has shown that nearly 40% of obese men over age 45 have a low testosterone blood levels.

Men with very low testosterone also are more likely to become obese. Losing weight through exercise can increase testosterone levels. Testosterone supplements in men with low testosterone also can slightly reduce obesity.

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Q:It is perfectly normal for a healthy man to have no interest in sexual activity. True or False?

A:False. For a reasonably healthy man, having no interest in sex is not normal. As a man ages, it is natural for him to have less interest in sex than when he was younger. A gradual decrease of testosterone is normal as a man ages, but it is not normal for a healthy, older man, to have no interest in sex. A man of any age who has lost interest in sex should have a frank conversation with a doctor.

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Q:You can diagnose yourself with low-T by the way you feel. True or False?

A:False. Many people with low testosterone have no symptoms. Only a blood test can determine a person's testosterone levels. The Endocrine Society considers 300 to 1,200 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) normal, and that less than 300 is low. Doctors usually use a blood test and a number of symptoms to make a diagnosis and to determine whether treatment is needed.

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Q:Low testosterone is responsible for most cases of baldness in men. True or False?

A:False. From puberty, when a boy starts to grow a beard and pubic hair, testosterone affects hair growth in men. But it doesn't affect growth on all parts of the body the same way. Low testosterone can cause you to lose body or facial hair, but it doesn't cause male pattern baldness. Genetics have more to do with male pattern baldness.

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Q:What can lower testosterone?

A:Alcoholism can lower testosterone. Alcohol is directly toxic to the testicles where testosterone is produced, and it seems to affect the release of other hormones related to men's sexual function and fertility. Shrunken testicles are a common sign of low testosterone in alcoholic men with liver disease, as well as lower libido and sexual potency. Enlarged breasts are common in heavy drinkers because alcohol may help convert testosterone into the female hormone estrogen.

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Q:Most men with low testosterone fail to seek treatment. True or False?

A:True. Up to 9 out of 10 men who have symptoms of low testosterone may not seek treatment. They may attribute their symptoms to other conditions or think their symptoms are a normal part of aging. Guys, if you have symptoms and believe they are having an impact on your quality of life and well-being, talk to your doctor.

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