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How Low Testosterone Affects Your Health

Dropping levels of this male hormone can cause more than sexual problems. It can also affect your mood, weight, and concentration.
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WebMD Magazine - Feature

Pete Evans knew something was wrong when he had sudden problems getting an erection. At 52, he had always had an active sex life. Even the bone marrow transplant he underwent in the summer of 2009 had little effect on his libido. Then, six months after the transplant, he lost his ability -- and his appetite -- for sex.

"After the operation, I had tons of energy, great libido. Then suddenly, things just stopped working," Evans (not his real name) says. "I was kind of depressed, too. After all I'd been through and now this."

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Finding himself unable to perform was an alarming first for him. When Evans, a retiree who lives in Amherst, Ohio, told his doctor, he received a prescription for Viagra. That didn't help. At a follow-up appointment, he had some blood work done. It showed that his testosterone level had tanked, likely a side effect of one of the post-transplant medications he was taking. This time, his doctor sent him to a urologist, who prescribed a testosterone skin patch to boost the levels of the hormone in his blood. He's now been using patches for about five months.

"I'm feeling more and more confident," Evans says. "Bringing up my testosterone has brought up my mood dramatically. I feel normal in every way."

Normal Testosterone Levels

Evans needed his bone marrow replaced because he has a rare blood disorder called aplastic anemia. His low level of testosterone, however, is a condition he shares with many men his age. The big difference is that Evans's testosterone levels plummeted almost overnight due to complications with his medication.

Age-related loss of testosterone, on the other hand, is gradual, dropping by about 1% to 1.5% per year beginning at age 40. The low testosterone levels that result can leave men feeling less energetic, less self-assured, and less manly.

In some labs, the normal levels (determined by a simple blood test) of a man's testosterone will measure 300 to 1,000 nanograms per deciliter. However, it's important to confirm low levels of testosterone since many men will have normal levels on repeated testing due to fluctuations of the hormone.

"I felt like something had been taken away from me," Evans says, and it wasn't just about the sex. "I didn't have the strength I once had, and I was not able to build muscle mass."

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