12 Signs & Symptoms of Low Testosterone in Men

Low testosterone is a condition that impacts the lives of many men. Experts say that around a quarter of men over 30 have under-performing T and the symptoms are far from ideal [1].

Some men suffer without actually knowing what’s causing their problems. So, it’s paramount you know how to spot these 12 warning signs of low testosterone.

What is testosterone?

Testosterone is the potent primary sex hormone that gives men their masculine traits. It’s also present among women, but in much smaller amounts.

During puberty, testosterone triggers masculine changes like increased muscle mass, voice deepening, facial hair, bone growth, and sexual activity.

It’s this primary androgen hormone that turns younger adolescent boys into fully-grown men.

But the importance of testosterone doesn’t end in the teens. The hormone plays a pivotal part in helping adult men stay physically fit and strong; with muscle mass, strength, bone density, and many other health markers responding to the hormone [2].

Interestingly, experts say thriving testosterone supports mental health too. 

Normal testosterone levels vary between 300 and 1,000 ng.dL. The huge range allows for the massive variety in the age, lifestyle, and natural makeup of the male population.

Young man exercising

Low testosterone in men

When testosterone falls below the 300 ng.dL mark, it starts to be considered low. The medical term for the condition is called hypogonadism.

Given how influential the hormone is for your wellbeing, low testosterone is never ideal. A blood test can quickly determine if your testosterone count has fallen below baseline. 

The symptoms of low testosterone range from inconvenient through to possibly life changing[3].

Spotting them early could help you prevent things getting worse.

All men face some testosterone decline[4].

Age-related loss is an unfortunate natural process, but lifestyle and disease can play a part too. Obesity, chronic stress, low-activity levels, and abusing drugs/alcohol all increase your risk of underperforming testosterone.

12 symptoms & signs of low testosterone

Here are 12 symptoms and signs of low testosterone:

1. Muscle loss

Like we outlined earlier, testosterone helps to regulate the development of muscle mass. So, when it dips, it’s common for your mass to diminish.

Scientists say this is because testosterone encourages muscle protein synthesis[5]. This is the process of turning over proteins to rebuild new muscle mass.

For a while, people thought this drop in bulk from low testosterone caused substantial loss of strength. But, according to recent research, that’s not actually true[6].

Muscle wasting is considered a late sign of low testosterone. Don’t hesitate to get a test if it impacts your physique.

Young man with muscle

2. Low libido

A common warning sign of waning testosterone is low libido. This is because the hormone plays an important role in igniting your sex drive[7].

Your testosterone levels peak when you’re a teenager, so it’s not surprising libido slides with age. But if you’re noticing a distinct drop in your sex drive, low testosterone could be the cause.

3. Erectile dysfunction

Even if your sex drive is still firing, you might struggle to get an erection. For men who face this issue, it can be very frustrating and emotionally challenging.

Interestingly, it isn’t actually testosterone that causes you to have an erection. The hormone triggers penile tissues to produce nitric oxide, which increases blood flow.

Experts say that this enhanced blood flow then encourages even more nitric oxide release, which continues until an erection is achieved. Apparently, the process can be compared to holding down a car’s accelerator pedal[8].

Sexual health is a complicated thing and erections even more so. It’s important to recognize the issues you’re having might not be totally down to low testosterone.

Weaker and fewer spontaneous erections could just be a sign of getting older too. If in doubt, speak to your doctor for private, confidential help.

4. Brain fog

Lots of evidence points toward testosterone influencing brain function[9]. Having a cloudy head and struggling to concentrate can be a warning sign of unbalanced hormones.

Some other studies also say that compromised male hormone production might also make learning harder.

According to a pretty expansive review from 2006, low endogenous levels of testosterone may be related to reduced cognitive ability[10].

Given that testosterone and memory both dwindle with age, some scientists theorize that they could be connected. They say you might find your memory isn’t what it used to be if you suffer from hypogonadism.

There’s mixed evidence to suggest that testosterone supplementation can help impaired memory[11]. While some small studies show it benefited patients, others didn’t.

5. Low semen volume

Semen is an ejaculate fluid that helps sperm travel toward an egg. When your testosterone is low, you might notice you produce less semen than normal.

Hypogonadism doesn’t necessarily stop you from orgasming. But one of the early warning signs is your sex drive and semen volume decreases.   

The National Institute of Health say semen volume usually ranges from 1.5 ml to 5 ml[12]. That’s somewhere between one third and a whole teaspoon.

Producing a small amount of semen every once in a while isn’t automatically a bad thing. But if you’re regularly falling short of the 1.5 ml mark, it’s maybe time to seek proper medical guidance.

6. Fatigue and general tiredness

Hypogonadal men regularly report feeling fatigued and tired. They say their energy levels become sapped and usual, everyday tasks can become hard work.

This type of tiredness is chronic too. Meaning that even if you rest, you don’t feel much improvement.

Naturally, this can have a rub on effect on other important health markers. You could find your motivation to exercise and eat healthily isn’t as strong.

Low testosterone can cause tiredness in men
Hypogonadal men regularly report feeling fatigued and tired.

7. Testicular atrophy

Low testosterone can cause your testicles to shrink to smaller than their average size. You might also notice your scrotum feels softer than usual.

Naturally, testicle size can alter depending on activity and temperature. So, you should assess yours in private when you’re in your usual, everyday environment. Avoid excessively hot or cold spaces.

8. Mood and emotional changes

Depression, anxiety, and low mood are common among hypogonadal men[13]. Irritability can be an issue too.

Scientists say that testosterone release affects many neurobehavioral functions including emotional tone, known better as your mental state. According to one important review, low-testosterone men showed significant improvements from using testosterone therapy[14].

9. Reduced bone mass

A serious physical side effect of low testosterone can be reduced bone mass.

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases consider low testosterone and poor lifestyle as a precursor to osteoporosis.

According to their research, the majority of men with weakened bones typically have at least one of these secondary causes[15].

Testosterone is absolutely vital for bone formation. While estrogen helps to suppress bone resorption, the male sex hormone is indispensable for bone growth and maintenance[16].

A lack of testosterone can quickly increase your risk of injury through breaks and fractures.

Interestingly, you can support your testosterone and help prevent osteoporosis by getting you RDA of vitamin D and regularly using resistance exercise[17]. 

10. Increased body fat

One of testosterone’s never-ending physical functions is regulating fat distribution. As a result, if your androgen is underperforming, you might find you’re storing more than usual. Experts say a lot of this extra bulk becomes belly fat too.

Testosterone plays an important part in all metabolism, not just lipids. Low amounts of the hormone can cause your body to become less sensitive to blood sugar hormones, impair glucose tolerance, and ramp up your blood’s fatty acid contents.

Scientists say your bad cholesterol count can be hiked up too[18]. Not to mention your risk of heart complications.

Looking at the facts it’s clear to see how low testosterone can make you gain unwanted weight. If you’ve noticed extra fat hanging around more than usual, take a test to check your hormones.

11. Gynecomastia – large breasts in men

Below baseline testosterone can sometimes cause a condition called gynecomastia – also known as the development of large breasts in men.

An imbalance of testosterone to estrogen is to blame, as the main female sex hormone starts to take over and upset the ratio. While the development of breasts is one of estrogen’s desired drivers in women, men don’t welcome it quite so much.

According to the Mayo Clinic, gynecomastia affects around 25% of men between 50 and 80[19].

But the condition isn’t age exclusive and men at any point in their life can suffer from it. Scientists actually consider gynecomastia as a relatively common condition[20].

12. Your penis might get smaller

Without a healthy flow of testosterone your penis might get smaller. Depending on how impactful your hormone decline is you, could lose length, girth, or both.

However, penis shrinkage isn’t always down to low testosterone. You might have caused lots of tiny injuries during sports and built up a bunch of scar tissues. Alternatively, it could be that you’re getting older and fatty deposits are restricting your blood flow.

Have you gained weight? Gaining weight, as we already know, is one of the physical signs of hypogonadism. But it can also make your penis look smaller.

It might not be that you’ve actually lost any penis size, but your relative mass might change the way you see things. Interestingly, the penis is attached to the abdominal wall too. So, when your belly expands, it pulls the penis inward.

The Final Word

Increased Testosterone Levels - Secret Weapon

Low testosterone is a condition that affects many modern men. It appears that we’re even taking a step back too.

Scientists report our testosterone levels are falling below other generations that proceed us[21]. They’re yet to put their finger firmly on one cause, but it’s happening nonetheless.

It’s up to us to spot the warning signs of our waning hormone and try to fix them right away.

Your testosterone is vital to your health. It helps to build and maintain your muscle mass, keep your bones strong, and support your mental health.

Looking at the list above it’s impossible to dismiss how important it is to your sexual health too. Testosterone might not be the only glue holding your wellbeing together, but it’s among the most powerful.

Looking after your testosterone doesn’t have to be difficult. Even age-related decline can be sidestepped somewhat with a healthy lifestyle.

Eating a well-balanced diet is a good place to start. Ensure you regularly enjoy a wide variety of whole foods; eat your healthy fats and mix in high-quality carbs and proteins.  

Exercise has also been shown to increase testosterone[22]. Apparently, you can pick up both short-term and long-term benefits from dialing in a regular workout routine.

According to the experts, it’s best to mix in a moderate weight training regime with moderate amounts of HIIT cardio[23][24].

Avoid long-distance endurance training if you don’t want it to damage your T[25].

Making time to relax and sleeping properly also support a healthy hormone balance. Hyper-stress and sleep deprivation are not healthy for your testosterone[26][27]. Try to eliminate both and create a calmer environment for it to thrive.

Your testosterone is extremely sensitive to how you treat your body. So, show yourself the respect you deserve and make any lifestyle changes you need today.

If you spot any of the warning signs for low testosterone, don’t hesitate to take a test. Only a doctor can medically diagnose if you have the condition.

 


References

[1] https://abcnews.go.com/Health/Healthday/story?id=4508669&page=1

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5434832/

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4391003/

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2544367/

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2917954

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5031462/

[7] https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/91/7/2509/2656285

[8] https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2002-03/jhmi-tbb031502.php

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4330791/

[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17132744

[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5433758/

[12] https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003627.htm

[13] https://www.nature.com/articles/3901365.pdf?origin=ppub

[14] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5434832/

[15] https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/osteoporosis/men

[16] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5036835/

[17] https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/osteoporosis/men

[18] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23378050

[19] http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gynecomastia/basics/causes/con-20028710

[20] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279105/

[21] https://uk.reuters.com/article/health-testosterone-levels-dc-idUKKIM16976320061101

[22] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22234399

[23] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17051372

[24] https://europepmc.org/abstract/med/25373470

[25] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5988228/

[26] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6348068/

[27] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4445839/

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