Ladies, we have covered a number of male health issues in my blog, but one topic remains the most sensitive for men – Low Testosterone (Low T). Most men mistakenly measure healthy testosterone levels based on muscle size, sexual prowess or chest hair. They even brag and joke about their perceived Herculean levels with their friends at home, work or in the gym, but the real truth for Low T sufferers is far more humbling.
Recently, I was interviewed by WebMD about Low T and I was excited to have the opportunity to discuss the topic with the public because there are countless misconceptions about and stigmas attached to this condition. The most troubling result of these – shaming men into suffering in silence. So I want to use this opportunity to explain what Low T is, its symptoms, how it is treated and why it may be important for you to encourage the man in your life to discuss it with his doctor.
Testosterone is the hormone that helps turn boys into men. During puberty, it is responsible for helping to produce facial hair, a deeper voice, and larger muscles. In adult men, it is critical in regulating sex drive and sperm production. So when a man’s testosterone levels begin to drop below what they should be, the symptoms often include – low sex drive, fatigue, fertility problems, weight gain around the midsection and irritability to name just a few. But what causes it?
For most men over 45, about 4 out of 10 suffer from Low T and there’s a lot more attention paid to testosterone issues today. Some of my patients are proactive and come in to my office to find out about their levels. But others may not want to talk about it at all.
The most common misconception is that low testosterone causes erectile dysfunction. The fact of the matter is that low testosterone doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the physical ability to get or maintain an erection. It has more to do with low desire and libido.
Now, if your doctor suspects your testosterone levels are low, he’ll administer a blood test. A ‘normal’ range of testosterone is anywhere between 300 to 1,000 ng/dL. But there’s no exact number it needs to fall within to be considered low because men may start having symptoms at different times. The good news is that this condition should not be anything a man feels ashamed of and it is very treatable.
There are a number of natural ways to raise testosterone, including engaging in exercise several times a week and, which can be a direct result of it – weight loss for men who are overweight. In other situations, a doctor may suggest starting hormone replacement therapy which includes giving testosterone in an injection, patch, gel, or tablets to raise his levels back to a normal, healthy range.
That doesn’t seem as daunting as one would think, does it? But it will likely take your support to convince him that taking the first step is the best step to resolving Low T. Of course, this may be easier said than done when it comes to men. Admittedly, we can be a little stubborn. So here are a few things that he can expect when coming to see his doctor.
Ideally, a doctor will bring up the topic during an office visit. That doesn’t mean coming right out and asking, ‘Do you have low testosterone?’ but ‘How’s your sexual function?’ Depending on what they’re being seen for, that’s usually one of the first questions I ask my patients. As medical providers, we’re not here to judge, but to help. As we age, our bodies tend to change. It’s a natural process.
There is no need for men to suffer in silence. Let’s turn up the volume on Low T so the man in your life can get back on the right track.