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Low testosterone

2-minute read

Men and women both produce testosterone, though men produce far more testosterone than women. Your testosterone levels can vary greatly depending on your gender, age and health. Find out more about low testosterone levels, and possible causes and symptoms of low testosterone.

What is testosterone?

Testosterone is the main sex hormone produced by men and is important in the development of the testicles and penis at puberty, as well as producing ‘male characteristics’ of the body, such as facial and body hair.

In men, testosterone carries out important body functions, including regulating sex drive and helping the testes make sperm. In women, testosterone is mainly converted to a form of oestrogen.

What is a normal testosterone level?

Men produce a lot more testosterone than women.

A pregnant woman will have 3-4 times more testosterone than a healthy, non-pregnant woman.

Testosterone levels are usually highest during adolescence and early adulthood. From the age of 30, they gradually reduce by about 1 per cent a year in most men.

What causes low testosterone levels?

Low testosterone levels can be caused by:

Older men can have low testosterone levels. If this is a problem, you may want to speak to your doctor about whether this is due simply to getting older, or if it’s caused by something else.

Low testosterone symptoms

Men with low testosterone levels in men might have:

  • reduced libido, fewer erections and infertility
  • changes in sleep patterns and poor sleep
  • physical changes such as:
    • increased body fat
    • reduced muscle bulk and strength
    • decreased bone density
    • swollen or tender breasts
    • body hair loss and lower energy levels
  • emotional changes, such as:
    • decreased motivation or self-confidence
    • mood swings
    • depression
    • difficulty concentrating or remembering things

Women with low testosterone levels might have:

  • osteoporosis
  • tiredness and lack of motivation
  • loss of libido

How are testosterone levels tested?

The only way to check for low testosterone levels is by having two blood tests. Testosterone levels vary over the day, so if you have a low level on one blood test, you should have a discussion with your doctor before deciding what next steps to take.

Low testosterone treatment

Testosterone therapy, given by injections, gels, lotions, creams, patches or tablets, is used to treat low testosterone. It's unclear whether testosterone therapy has any benefit for older men who are otherwise healthy, and testosterone therapy may even be harmful in some situations.

The risks of testosterone therapy include:

  • acne or other skin reactions
  • weight gain
  • non-cancerous growth of the prostate and growth of any existing prostate cancer

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Last reviewed: April 2018

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