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Low testosterone: Listen to your doctor, not the TV commercials

Man holding pills and a shake

Do you know when to check your testosterone level? Here are five symptoms of low testosterone every man should know.

You’ve seen the commercials for ordering supplements online, but what is “low-t” really, when should you see a doctor and do those online pills really work?

Testosterone is a hormone produced by the testicles, and it affects sex drive, bone and muscle mass, mood swings and the way men store fat in the body. Testosterone production typically decreases with age, but how do you know when levels are too low?  We talked with Dr. Harold Springs, III, an endocrinologist at Tryon Medical Partners, and he recommends men be on the lookout for these five symptoms of low testosterone.

1. General fatigue

Men with low testosterone may experience extreme tiredness and decreases in their energy levels. Some men have indicated they feel tired all the time, despite getting plenty of rest, and they find it harder to get motivated to exercise.  

2. Loss of concentration or motivation

Low testosterone levels can affect a man’s mood and memory, and can cause increased irritability and a general lack of focus. According to one study, men with low testosterone are more likely to be irritable and face depression.

“Some men start to notice a decrease in concentration levels, and this can really affect their job performance,” Dr. Springs says. “It’s hard to function at work when you cannot remember things and have problems with overall cognition.”

3. Decreased sex drive

Testosterone plays a key role in a man’s sex drive. Some men experience a natural decline in sex drive as they age, but someone with low testosterone could experience a sudden drop in their desire to have sex.

“A decrease in sex drive can really impact a man’s relationship and overall sense of well-being,” Dr. Springs says. “I recommend that patients reach out to their doctor if they experience a drastic drop in sex drive. Low testosterone could be the cause. Fortunately it is a common problem and it can be treated.”

4. Difficulty getting and maintaining an erection

Testosterone is the hormone that stimulates a man’s sex drive and receptors in the brain to produce nitric oxide. Nitric oxide then helps trigger chemical reactions in the body necessary for an erection to occur. When a man’s testosterone levels dip too low, he may have difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection.

5. Increase in body fat

When men have low testosterone levels, they may experience an increase in body fat, since their bodies aren’t using their caloric intake to build muscle. However, increased body fat and weight gain can also lead to low testosterone.

“One of the most common causes of low testosterone in older men is obesity,” Dr. Springs says. “I tell my patients to make sure they’re eating a healthy, well-balanced diet and getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day since studies have shown that regular exercise along with maintaining a healthy weight can help increase testosterone.”

In addition to maintaining a well-balanced diet and a consistent exercise routine, Dr. Springs recommends making other healthy lifestyle choices. Tobacco and heavy drinking can contribute to low testosterone, so quitting smoking and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption are highly beneficial.  

Some men that experience the symptoms above will try and correct the problem on their own with testosterone supplements they purchase online. But before you reach for those pills, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss the options. Many low-testosterone symptoms are common and associated with other health concerns, so it’s important to consider your current symptoms and medical history.

“Those supplements we see advertised on TV aren’t FDA-approved and studies have shown they have little to no benefit,” Dr. Springs says. “I don’t recommend that men take these supplements to treat their symptoms themselves. I’d rather they discuss their symptoms with their doctor and find the root cause in order to avoid a bad health outcome.”

If you have any questions about low testosterone, now is the time to get answers by scheduling an appointment today. When making your appointment, be sure to discuss the best time of day for a test since accurate results are most often achieved in the morning along with fasting.

Together with your trusted physician, you can develop a plan to test for testosterone and determine the cause of your symptoms as well as the most appropriate treatment.