The symptoms and impact of low testosterone in adults, male or female, should never be brushed aside or referred to as normal signs of aging. If left untreated, Low T, also called hypogonadism, can increase the risk of developing conditions such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and dementia. In this review, we discuss how the symptoms of low testosterone levels impact adults in all areas of their lives.
When you understand and can identify the warning signs of testosterone deficiency, you can take the appropriate action of contacting a hormone specialist for a physical exam and blood test. Those are the diagnostic requirements for assessing testosterone levels.
What are the symptoms of low testosterone, and what can happen if a person does not seek medical help?
Symptoms can vary considerably from one person to the next because testosterone has androgen receptors throughout the body – even in the brain. How the body will react to very low levels of testosterone often depends on which receptors do not receive enough testosterone.
For example, some people may find their biggest changes affect their body composition, such as weight gain and muscle loss. Others may experience declining sex drive and impaired sexual functions. Height shrinkage and joint pains are other issues some adults discover as they lose testosterone production.
If testosterone has receptors in the brain, what are the effects of Low T that can happen there?
Impaired memory, learning, focus, depression, and mood swings are additional effects of low testosterone. Women are just as likely to experience these changes as men. In each of these areas, the impact can transition from home to work, causing problems in relationships, productivity, and future outlook.
The symptoms and impact of low testosterone in adults are often wrongly mistaken for signs of aging and can have a detrimental influence on a person’s life if left untreated.
How Low Testosterone Affects Adults Health: Symptoms and Signs
As we delve further into the side effects of low testosterone in adults, health concerns are a primary issue. As frustrating as it may seem to suffer from low libido, there are even higher risks to brain and heart functions that can have long-term effects on a person’s well-being.
Too many physicians overlook the symptoms and impact of low testosterone in adults, not because they do not care, but because they do not have the training to recognize these issues. The study of the body’s hormones is a field of medicine called endocrinology. It is crucial to find a specialist in this field who can identify, diagnose, and treat extremely low levels of testosterone.
How can low T cause problems to a person’s health and well-being if left untreated?
To answer that, let us look at three critical areas of life: Body and Mind, Relationships, Mood, and Emotions:
- Body and Mind
When we talk about the body and mind, it is also essential to discuss the brain/gut connection. Inflammation has long been associated with low testosterone levels. Stomach problems due to inflammatory conditions are often associated with central adiposity (abdominal fat) and obesity. Studies have shown the connection between these issues and depression and mood changes, including increased anxiety.
Steroid hormones such as testosterone play a role in gut microbiota. Low T levels can alter the delicate balance of microbiomes in the gut that can then influence brain functions. The gut microbiome-brain axis regulates communication between the central nervous system (CNS) and the gut microbiome. Changes that affect this axis can alter stress responses and behavior, often influencing depression, anxiety, and potential conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Testosterone is also known to exert suppressive actions on cellular immune responses, which is why males have a higher risk of sepsis-related mortality and morbidity than females. The more significant decline in testosterone levels that men experience reduces the body’s ability to fight off infectious microorganisms.
These are only some of the many ways low testosterone affects the body. We will look at other impacts of testosterone deficiency in the next two sections.
When we talk about low testosterone and relationships, it is not just marriage that we discuss. Of course, reduced sex drive, fatigue, and depression will have a detrimental impact on a marriage or relationship. However, how a person with Low T interacts with other family members, friends, and even work associates may also be affected.
Many people with low testosterone suffer from reduced drive, lack of focus, and impaired memory. They may struggle to complete their tasks at work, which can lead to employment tension and jeopardy.
Lack of energy, mood changes, and fatigue can hinder the ability to engage in social activities with family and friends. Social isolation is common in people with testosterone deficiency.
- Mood and Emotions
We have already touched on how low testosterone can lead to emotional problems such as depression and mood swings. Mental health is a severe crisis in this country, as people still view depression in a negative light. Unfortunately, many individuals do not realize that depression often stems from hormonal imbalance. That is also why anti-depressants do not work for every person. Before there were anti-depressants, testosterone therapy was prescribed to treat depression. Thankfully, hormone specialists today immediately check testosterone levels when a person mentions depression as a symptom.
Most Common Symptoms of Low T in Adults
As we talk about the symptoms and impact of low testosterone in adults, we must remember that just because a person does not have every issue, does not mean they do not have Low T. It can be dangerous to assume that having only a few of the 10 signs listed below does not mean you should seek help. Once you notice at least two of the symptoms of low testosterone, it is time to speak with a hormone specialist.
10 common low testosterone symptoms in men and women:
- Fatigue – sleep problems such as insomnia are common signs of low testosterone. Lack of sleep (anything less than 7 hours) can reduce testosterone levels and lead to loss of energy.
- Weight Gain – testosterone helps to regulate metabolism. People with low testosterone tend to gain weight, especially in the abdominal area. Since being overweight also lowers testosterone levels, it starts a vicious cycle of spiraling events.
- Joint Pain – stiffness and pain in the joints is often seen when bone mineral density declines. Testosterone plays a crucial role in bone maintenance, both directly and indirectly, through its conversion to estradiol (estrogen).
- Muscle Loss – androgen hormones, such as testosterone, directly influence muscle mass. If workouts no longer produce expected results, or if muscle mass begins to decline, it is time to check testosterone levels.
- Low Libido – testosterone is the direct stimulator of sex drive in men and women.
- Mood Changes – depression, anxiety, irritability, and stress are all common with Low T.
- Hair Loss – when too much testosterone converts into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), it can impact the hair follicles causing hair loss or thinning.
- Memory Loss – androgen receptors in the brain help regulating learning, memory, and cognitive processing. Lack of testosterone can lead to memory loss and impaired brain functions.
- Infertility – testosterone is an integral part of spermatogenesis as well as promoting the growth and sensitivity of ovarian follicles.
- Erectile Dysfunction – although not considered the ultimate cause of ED, low testosterone often plays a role in erectile issues for men. Testosterone stimulates red blood cell production, which supports sending healthy blood flow to the penis for an erection. Testosterone also helps the penile tissue produce nitric oxide which is necessary for an erection.
Less Common Symptoms of Low T in Adults
As devastating as some of the changes mentioned above may seem, they are by far not the only signs and symptoms of low testosterone in adults.
Women typically experience signs of testosterone deficiency during menopause. Unfortunately, many doctors rapidly prescribe either estrogen or an estrogen/progesterone combination without properly checking hormone levels. Low testosterone can also lead to estrogen dominance if too much testosterone converts into estradiol. In that situation, the prescribing of estrogen therapy can worsen the situation. Women who gain weight while receiving estrogen therapy should have their testosterone levels checked by a hormone specialist.
Does low testosterone cause menopausal symptoms in women?
The answer here is yes, low testosterone is often a cause of hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, brain fog, and weight gain – all symptoms of menopause. Some men reading this may readily identify with these signs, as they, too, can experience them when in andropause.
What are other, less common, symptoms of Low T in adults?
- Back Pain – as with joint pains, some people may experience back pain as their bone density declines. Height shrinkage is another sign of decreasing bone density and low testosterone.
- Testicular Atrophy – men may notice a reduction in testicular size or even a softness in their scrotum.
- Reduced Semen Output – since testosterone helps influence spermatogenesis, semen production may decline.
- Anemia – testosterone plays a significant role in stimulating red blood cell production.
- Insulin Resistance – testosterone helps to influence insulin sensitivity to improve glucose uptake.
- Decreased Drive and Motivation – without the stimulus to the brain’s androgen receptors, a person can suffer from a lack of drive.
- High LDL and Total Cholesterol – low testosterone has been linked to elevated LDL and total cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol levels. Increasing testosterone has reversed these results.
- Urinary Tract Issues – prostate size tends to increase as testosterone levels decrease, putting pressure on the urinary tract. Many males have experienced relief of their urinary symptoms following testosterone therapy.
- Gynecomastia – male breast enlargement is a sign of high estrogen and low testosterone levels.
The biggest concern is the long-term risks associated with untreated testosterone deficiency, such as:
- Atherosclerosis – excess LDL cholesterol in the arteries can lead to plaque buildup.
- Cardiovascular Disease – increased risk of mortality and morbidity associated with Low T.
- Heart Attack and Stroke – due to increased risks associated with atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.
- Metabolic Syndrome – risk factors include high blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels, obesity, and insulin resistance.
- Osteoporosis – due to the weakening of the bones with low testosterone-associated bone loss.
- Dementia – brought on by reduced testosterone supply to androgen receptors in the brain.
- Type 2 Diabetes – changes in insulin sensitivity, which often leads to insulin resistance, can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Obesity – because testosterone influences metabolic functions, the risk of obesity continues to increase as testosterone levels decline. Part of the problem stems from belly fat, which produces the enzyme aromatase that converts testosterone into estradiol. Estrogen tells the body to store fat, which further increases the conversion process that continues to lower testosterone levels.
Allowing the symptoms and impact of low testosterone in adults to go untreated has dire detrimental effects on a person’s health and well-being. Please contact our hormone clinic for further information.