Testosterone is the key male sex hormone that regulates fertility, muscle mass, fat distribution, and red blood cell production.

When levels of testosterone drop below levels that are healthy, they can lead to conditions like hypogonadism or infertility. There are, however, sources from which people with low testosterone can boost their levels.

Low testosterone is becoming more and more common. The number of prescriptions for testosterone supplements has increased since 2012.

This article will explore what testosterone does and whether men should worry about decreasing levels of the hormone as they grow older.

Fast facts on testosterone

  • Testosterone regulates a number of processes in the male body.
  • Levels of testosterone tend to drop as men age.
  • Prohormone supplements do not have any effect on testosterone levels.
  • Testosterone supplements are prescribed only for specified conditions, and not to counteract the natural, age-related drop in testosterone levels.
  • Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) is also available. However, this can carry side effects and risks.

Testosterone test
Testosterone decreases naturally with age. It is important to receive tests to determine whether any imbalances are due to an active condition.

High or low levels of testosterone in the parts of the body normally regulated by the hormone.

When a man has low testosterone, or hypogonadism, he may experience:

Over time, these symptoms may develop in the following ways:

  • loss of body hair
  • loss of muscle bulk
  • loss of strength
  • increased body fat

Chronic, or ongoing, low testosterone may lead to osteoporosis, mood swings, reduced energy, and testicular shrinkage.

Causes can include:

  • testicular injury, such as castration
  • infection of the testicles
  • medications, such as opiate analgesics
  • disorders that affect the hormones, such as pituitary tumors or high prolactin levels
  • chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, kidney and liver disease, obesity, and HIV/AIDS
  • genetic diseases, such as Klinefelter syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, hemochromatosis, Kallman syndrome, and myotonic dystrophy

Too much testosterone, on the other hand, can lead to the triggering of puberty before the age of . This condition would mainly affect younger men and is much rarer.

In women, however, high testosterone levels male pattern baldness, a deep voice, and menstrual irregularities, as well as:

  • growth and swelling of the clitoris
  • changes in body shape
  • reduction in breast size
  • oily skin
  • acne
  • facial hair growth around the body, lips, and chin

Recent studies have also linked high testosterone levels in women to the .

Testosterone imbalances can be detected with a blood test and treated accordingly.

Testosterone levels naturally decrease as a man ages.

The effects of gradually lowering testosterone levels as men age have received increasing attention in recent years. It is known as late-onset hypogonadism.

After the age of 40, the concentration of circulating testosterone falls by about for most men. By the age of 60, the low levels of testosterone would lead to a diagnosis of hypogonadism in younger men.

About men have hypogonadism by the time they reach 45 years old. The number of cases in which older men have been diagnosed as having low testosterone increased since 2012.

Low testosterone has been associated with increased mortality in male veterans. Late-onset hypogonadism has become a recognized medical condition, although many of the symptoms are associated with normal aging.

The following are :

As well as sexual dysfunction, late-onset hypogonadism has also been associated with metabolic disease and cardiovascular disease.

The degree to which testosterone levels decline varies between men, but a growing number of men experience the effects of reduced testosterone levels. Life expectancy has increased, and many men now live beyond the age of 60 years.

As a result, a higher number of men see the effects of age-related testosterone depletion.

Administering treatment for hypogonadism as the result of a disease differs from treating late-onset hypogonadism in older men.

Testosterone supplements

One proposed treatment for low testosterone comes in the form of testosterone supplements.

One type of testosterone supplement, methyltestosterone, has received approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, doctors not to prescribe this supplement due to the speed with which the liver metabolizes testosterone.

This can lead to liver toxicity. While doctors can legally prescribe the supplement, they generally try to avoid this.

Until stronger evidence is available to support the benefits and safety of testosterone supplementation, only older adults with severe clinical symptoms of low testosterone should be candidates for these supplements.

The FDA have advised that testosterone supplements are to treat late-onset hypogonadism, and a doctor should only prescribe them for an identifiable cause.

Testosterone replacement therapy

Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) restore some affected functions of low testosterone.

that TRT mainly impacts bone strength and hemoglobin levels in the blood, but not mental sharpness.

The treatment can be administered by:

These can, however, trigger side effects, including:

Deciding to pursue a course of TRT involves deciding between the perceived benefit of the therapy on the symptoms of a particular individual and the risks of the treatment.

A recent study, for example, suggests that TRT provides for overall mortality and stroke for men whose testosterone levels have normalized with TRT.

However, the Endocrine Society advises that doctors TRT to men aged less than 65 years, even if they have low testosterone levels. The risks and suggested benefits of TRT for men younger than this are unclear, as are the benefits.

Current research is conflicting. Additional studies into testosterone replacement are necessary for physicians to fully understand its potential risks and benefits, and to identify the individuals that may see the most benefit.

Prohormone supplements and heart disease

Prohormone supplements are often used in place of illegal steroids to build muscle. However, they are a poor choice for treating low testosterone.

Prohormones are a variety of steroid. They are often used to and muscle-building.

A number of prohormone supplements are marketed at men to treat low testosterone levels. Such supplements can include dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and the herbal product Tribulus terrestris. However, a bill was passed in 2014 banning designer anabolic steroids.

Legal variants have emerged since. However, there is little, if any, research to indicate that these prohormone supplements affect testosterone levels. from 2016 did not find any evidence that Tribulus terrestris, for example, can increase testosterone levels.

Such remedies . The law does not require herbal supplements to be proven safe before sale, so caution is advised.

Prohormones can increase testosterone but boost estrogen, the female hormone, at the same time. They can also in blood cholesterol, decreasing levels of "good" cholesterol.

The potential side effects of prohormones their unproven clinical benefits make them a poor, possibly dangerous choice for boosting testosterone.