Causes and Effects of Testosterone Reduction

In modern society, many men have concerns about having a less than impressive physique, erectile dysfunction, or a decreased libido. For some of these men, a low testosterone level may be the cause of their woes. Unbeknownst to them, their low testosterone levels can have other effects. Luckily, the many possible causes of testosterone can be categorized into two primary groups.

In order to fully understand low testosterone, one must have a certain knowledge of how testosterone works in the body. Testosterone is a sex hormone that is most notably responsible for secondary sex characteristics such as muscle mass, facial hair growth and bone density. The highest amount of testosterone is released during adolescences and early adulthood. After this period, testosterone levels begin to decline by as much a 1% to 1.5% annually after the age of forty. This decline in testosterone level affects men differently and can be exaggerated in some men for a number of reasons. Thus, the natural decline of testosterone with age must be understood and considered when approaching the problem of low testosterone.

In fact, low testosterone has a long list of causes, some of which are controllable.
These causes fall into three categories:

    Aging

    Increased bone frailty with age, decreased muscle mass and the accumulation of fatty tissue

  • The first category is aging.
  • This has already been discussed to some extent. Testosterone decreases slowly over the course of a man’s life. This is partially responsible for increased bone frailty with age, decreased muscle mass and the accumulation of fatty tissue.

    The extent of this decline can be influenced by genetic factors and environmental factors. A predisposition towards a decline in testosterone levels and/or a particularly stressful environment could exacerbate the problem. One environmental element that is important is exposure to sunlight, because of its connection with vitamin D production. Vitamin D plays a role in testosterone production. So, when a patient has low sunlight exposure, their testosterone production can be hampered. Age-related decreases in testosterone vary widely and can prove to be troublesome with the wrong interaction between a genetic predisposition and the environment.

  • The causes of low testosterone levels can be described by a condition called hypogonadism.
  • A decline in testosterone levels beyond age-related decline is called hypogonadism. Hypogonadism comes in two forms. The first type of hypogonadism, primary hypogonadism, is caused by testicles that produce less testosterone than normal. Decreased production from the testicles can be caused by inherited illnesses, accidents or the environment around the testicles. Two examples of inherited illnesses include undescended testicles and Klinefelter’s syndrome. Undescended testicles do not allow for the management of the temperature of testicles, which can result in damage. Klinefelter’s syndrome is a genetic condition with many effects on the male body, including reduced testosterone production by the testicles. In lieu of inherited conditions, accidents may also cause primary hypogonadism. Any accident, especially blunt trauma or testicular torsion, that harms both testicles will lower the production of testosterone. The testicles can be similarly damaged by a harsh environment. Specifically, testicles are very sensitive to temperature. If testicles become too warm, then the sperm count declines and testosterone levels decrease. In some cases, unintentional damage can occur. For example, in treating testicular cancer, chemotherapy can cause low testosterone. Whether through illness, accident or a harsh environment, testicles can be damaged and lead to the development of primary hypogonadism.

  • Secondary hypogonadism lowers testosterone levels by affecting the pituitary gland or hypothalamus.
  • sedentary-lifestyle

    Sedentary lifestyle can decrease hormone production and the body’s response to hormones

    These two brain structures are instrumental in hormone regulation, including the production of testosterone. If either structure is damaged, then testosterone levels can be significantly altered. The pituitary gland can be harmed by certain drugs, kidney failure and tumors. Some conditions such as inflammation from infections and AIDS can negatively effect the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. Secondary hypogonadism can also be caused by self-imposed conditions. For example, high body fat percentages and a sedentary lifestyle can decrease hormone production and the body’s response to hormones. This leads to a decrease in testosterone production. Other examples of controllable factors that can reduce testosterone are high blood sugar and high blood pressure. Damage to the hypothalamus or pituitary gland can occur from disease or acquired conditions, and will lead to a decrease in testosterone levels.

With the long list of potential causes, it is only natural that the effects of testosterone are equally broad and complex.

These effects fall into four major categories:

    depressed-man

    Individuals with low testosterone tend to suffer from depression

  • The first is cognitive and psychological issues.
  • Low testosterone has been connected to a decrease in concentration and increased irritability. In a similar vein, individuals with low testosterone tend to suffer from depression more often than those with normal testosterone levels. Individuals with depression often demonstrate problems with self-confidence and low motivation, connecting testosterone levels to self-esteem. In short, decreased testosterone levels have the ability to halt a man’s production, harm his cognitive functions and lower his self-esteem.
     
     
     

  • The next set of effects of low testosterone consists of the most noticeable effects, large-scale physical symptoms.
  • Losing testosterone means that certain reversible secondary sex characteristics can be altered. The most prominent examples are bone density, fat distribution and muscle bulk. With a decrease in testosterone, bone density will decrease and make bones weaker. Whereas testosterone keeps body fat percentages relatively low for men, low testosterone can lead to the buildup of fatty tissue. A related effect is that low testosterone will lead to a decrease in muscle development. Altogether, low testosterone can lead a man to have a weaker bone structure, more body fat and less muscle.
     

  • The risk of certain diseases is also related to low testosterone.
  • diabetes

    The increase in body fat due to low testosterone can lead to Type II diabetes

    Since bone density is negatively affected, patients can develop osteoporosis. In addition, the increase in body fat due to low testosterone can lead to Type II diabetes or heart disease. Both, diabetes and heart disease, are much more common in elderly populations. For this reason, young men with low testosterone can become particularly worried about their condition. Perhaps the most life-altering effect is the development of cancer. Low testosterone leads to the gathering of body fat around the midsection. This places patients at risk for certain kinds of cancers. Due to the severity of these possible outcomes, low testosterone is not something to be taken lightly.
     

  • The final effect of low testosterone is the most well-known, its effect on a man’s libido.
  • no_libido

    Low testosterone effects on a man’s libido.

    The negative effects on a man’s sex life can be particularly harmful, because of the disruption of daily life and long-term family plans. A man can experience a reduced sex drive and trouble having an erection. The inconsistency of the sex drive can cause a dissatisfaction with sex life and in some cases marital issues. Low testosterone can have a negative impact on a man’s fertility by reducing his sperm count. Low testosterone causes a man not only to have less sex, but also to be less fertile in some cases.

Testosterone is a hormone on the minds of men across the world. It helps men develop the traits that are commonly used to define masculinity. Decreased testosterone levels lead to man negative effects that harm a man’s physical and mental well-being. To accompany the many effects of low testosterone there are many possible causes that act through two main mechanisms. Knowing the causes of low testosterone allows us to identify the core of the problem and take action towards a solution.