What Low Testosterone Does to Your Body

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    Testosterone Through the Ages
    Testosterone is the defining hormone for boys and men. It's responsible for male traits. Your body starts making testosterone when you're still in the womb. Testosterone production rises until about age 17. Then it starts to slowly fall in middle age. By age 80, your testosterone level will be half of what it once was. However, not having enough testosterone can affect you at any age.

  • Teenage Caucasian boy holding smartphone and smiling
    Low Testosterone in Young Men
    Remember when your voice started to change and you started to think about sex all the time? That was your testosterone kicking in. Low testosterone during puberty can have several effects. Your testicles and penis might not grow larger. You might not start growing hair on your face and pubic area. You might also keep your baby fat and not get bigger, stronger muscles.

  • senior man on bench
    Low Testosterone in Older Men
    Your testosterone levels start to drop off after age 30. An estimated 5 million adult males in the United States have low testosterone. You may not notice any symptoms. If you do, they can include less interest in sex and trouble keeping an erection. You might feel down, or feel foggy headed. Low testosterone can also cause breast tissue to grow and result in less body hair, less muscle, and more fat. Thinner bones and fewer red blood cells are other possible effects.

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    Low Testosterone and Mood
    There's a strong link between low testosterone and depression. As you get older, your risk for both depression and low testosterone increases. Depression may be due in part to symptoms like loss of interest in sex, fatigue, and irritability. There is also some evidence that low T itself causes chemical changes in your brain that can lead to depression. Other mood symptoms linked to low testosterone include anxiety, anger, and nervousness.

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    Low Testosterone and Fertility
    Men, as well as women, can be infertile. Infertility means you cannot get a woman pregnant after at least one year of trying. Low testosterone could be part of the reason. You need a healthy amount of testosterone to produce healthy sperm. However, treatment for low testosterone can also cause infertility: by taking testosterone, your brain thinks you have enough of it in your system. Your brain then signals your testicles to stop their natural production of testosterone.

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    Low Testosterone and Erectile Dysfunction
    Low testosterone can cause erectile dysfunction (ED). However, it's not the only possible cause. ED is a lot more common than low testosterone, so you could have ED and a normal testosterone level. The most common cause of ED is poor circulation. In fact, ED may be a warning sign that you have heart or blood vessel problems. Treating low testosterone might help with ED, but the best treatment is with a drug meant for ED, or what’s causing ED.

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    Low Testosterone and Osteoporosis
    Osteoporosis is not just a woman's problem. Men with low testosterone can also have thinning bones that lead to falls and fractures. Testosterone helps build strong bones. Although osteoporosis can stem from low testosterone, other factors play a role, too. These include smoking, drinking alcohol, and physical inactivity.

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    Low Testosterone and Obesity
    Obesity and low testosterone share a complicated connection. Being obese can cause testosterone levels to fall. Having low testosterone can also lead to obesity. This usually means extra belly fat. The danger doesn’t stop there. That belly fat can lead to other problems like high cholesterol and even type 2 diabetes. Low testosterone may also make your body less sensitive to insulin, which is what eventually causes type 2 diabetes.

What Low Testosterone Does to Your Body

About The Author

  1. Barkin J. Erectile dysfunction and hypogonadism (low testosterone). The Canadian Journal of Urology. 2011;18(Supplement 1):2-7. 
  2. Wang C, et al. Low Testosterone Associated With Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome Contributes to Sexual Dysfunction and Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Men With Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2011 Jul;34(7):1669-75.
  3. Evaluating Infertility. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq136.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20131207T0727270260
  4. Crosnoe LE, et al. Exogenous testosterone: a preventable cause of male infertility. Transl Androl Urol. 2013 Jun;2(2):106-13. 
  5. Hormone replacement, the male version. Harvard Health Publications http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/Hormone-replacement-the-male-version.htm
  6. Amore M, et al. Partial Androgen Deficiency, Depression, and Testosterone Supplementation in Aging Men. Int J Endocrinol. 2012; 2012: 280724.
  7. Osteoporosis in Men. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Osteoporosis/men.asp
  8. Low Testosterone and Men's Health. Hormone Health Network. http://www.hormone.org/questions-and-answers/2010/low-testosterone-and-mens-health

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Oct 8
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.