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How Low Testosterone Affects Health,
Mood, and Sex

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Low Testosterone: How to Talk to Your Doctor

By Stephanie Booth
WebMD Feature

It’s the hormone that helps turn boys into men. During puberty, it brings about facial hair, a deeper voice, and bigger muscles. In grown men, it helps to control sex drive and make sperm.

When your testosterone levels dip below what they should be, you can have problems with your sex drive and ability to have kids. Many men have this condition, which is called hypogonadism. Still, you may be too embarrassed to voice your concerns. WebMD offers these tips to help you talk to your doctor about it.

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What Causes It?

Testosterone levels drop in all men as they age. About 4 out of 10 men over age 45 have low testosterone.

“Nowadays, there’s a lot more attention paid to testosterone issues in men,” says S. Adam Ramin, MD, the medical director of Urology Cancer Specialists in Los Angeles. “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 all.”

The symptoms of low testosterone can include:

Many men confuse low testosterone with erectile dysfunction. But “low testosterone doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the ability to get an erection,” Ramin says. “It’s more about low desire and libido.”

How It’s Tested

If your doctor suspects your testosterone levels are low, he’ll give you a blood test, probably first thing in the morning. Your levels go up and down during the day. Mornings are when they tend to be highest.

Still, you may need to have your blood taken more than once and at different times of the day. Once your results come back, your doctor may send you for other tests to gather more information.

A normal range of testosterone is anywhere between 300 to 1,000 ng/dL. But there’s no exact number it needs to fall below to be considered low, says Philip Werthman, MD, director of the Center for Male Reproductive Medicine & Vasectomy Reversal in Los Angeles. “Every lab has a different range of what’s ‘normal.’”

Men start having symptoms at different times, too. Some may notice changes around 250 ng/dL, for instance. Other men, Werthman says, “don’t get symptoms until their level is at 150 or even 100.”

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Why are you concerned about low testosterone?