Home > Lifestyle > Man > Your health Updated 28 October 2013 Testosterone deficiency In men, testosterone tends to decrease with age. In some, it could lead to mild symptoms. What can you expect as you grow older? 0 Follow us Facebook » Ask CyberShrink » Receive Health tips » Test Your sex toy IQ » All the tests you'll ever need 8 strange things your body does Both men and women experience changes in hormone production as they grow older. In men, testosterone – a hormone produced in the testicles – tends to decrease with age. Testosterone has a number of functions, playing a role in: Sexual drive and functionSperm productionBone growth and densityMuscle strength and mass Body fat levels and distributionRed blood cell production Emotional well-beingUnlike female menopause, the male hormonal change happens very gradually. Testosterone levels vary between individuals, but peak in adolescence and young adulthood, decreasing on average about 1 percent a year after age 30. While this decline is often considered a natural part of ageing, it can be exacerbated by poor health and lifestyle.Abnormally low testosterone levels, a condition called hypogonadism, can also be caused by various underlying disorders. While more common in older men, hypogonadism can occur in men of any age, and may result in serious health and quality-of-life issues. CausesTestosterone deficiency occurs because of loss of function in the hormonal system and the testes. In hypogonadism, the dysfunction may be due to a range of conditions: Damage to, or loss of, the testiclesCancer treatmentObesityGenetic factorsHigh iron levelsPituitary gland dysfunction Inflammatory diseases Chronic (long-term) illnessKidney failureAlcoholism and cirrhosis of the liverUse of hormone-containing medicationsSteroid or opiate abuseStressMen with diabetes, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, hyperlipidaemia or osteoporosis also have a higher incidence of testosterone deficiency. SymptomsSome men have no or mild symptoms. For others, testosterone deficiency may cause:Loss of libido (sex drive), erectile dysfunction and general loss of sexual functionLowered physical energyDepressed mood, irritabilitySleep disturbanceLoss of muscle tone Increased body fat, especially belly fat (a risk factor for cardiovascular disease)Mild anaemiaOsteoporosisChanges in cholesterol levelsAbnormal sperm productionShrinking testesFlushes and sweatingPain in the breastsLoss of body hairPoor concentration and memoryThese symptoms can be subtle and gradual, and may not be noticed or recognised at once. Some are a normal part of ageing, or may be the signs of other unrelated disorders.If you suspect that you have low testosterone, see your doctor for a blood test. Because testosterone levels fluctuate, several samples may be needed. Often the blood will be taken in the morning, when testosterone levels are highest.TreatmentWhere the deficiency is causing distress or health problems, testosterone replacement therapy may be effective. (Note that no herbal supplements have been shown to help – and some might be dangerous.)Testosterone can be introduced into the body in a number of different ways. Your doctor will advise you on which of these treatments, if any, is best for you:A topical gelPatches on the scrotum or elsewhere on the bodyInjections every few weeksPellets implanted under the skinOral tabletsA roll-on stick Material applied to the gumsThis therapy is relatively safe. However, there may be some side effects:Worsening of sleep apnoea (a sleep disorder)Skin problems: acne or oilinessFluid retentionProstate growth, possibly causing problems with urinationBreast enlargementShrinking testiclesChanged cholesterol levelsHigh red blood cell count, which can increase the risk of heart diseaseLow sperm count Mood swingsNote: Men with prostate or breast cancer should not take testosterone replacement therapy, and all patients should first be screened for this. While testosterone doesn’t cause prostate cancer, it can speed up its spread.It’s not clear that testosterone therapy has any benefit in the case of healthy older men whose testosterone is naturally declining. Given the risks, it’s generally not advised.It will help you to manage the condition if you follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly: this improves muscle strength, energy levels and sleep patterns. It’s also advisable to seek help for any mood problems such as depression, which may be related to low testosterone or its effects. Note that drinking excessively can be a sign of depression.- (Health24, October 2013)(Source: Dandona, P and Rosenberg, M.T., 'A practical guide to male hypogonadism in the primary care setting', International Journal of Clinical Practice, May 2010) More in Lifestyle The More You Know: Piles More: ManYour health advertisement Read Health24’s Comments Policy Comment on this story 0 comments Comments have been closed for this article. Logout Comment 0 characters remaining Share on Facebook Loading comments... From our sponsors Keep an eye on your vision Which skin products are better, ‘medical grade’ or ‘over-the-counter’? 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