The Truth about Low T

July 15, 2015

Dr. Shaw and the Austin Urology Institute team are experts on male reproductive health, which means we field a lot of questions from men that they’re embarrassed to ask anyone else. One trending topic in the men’s health world is low testosterone, or as it’s known on billboards and radio ads, low T. What is low T? Is it contagious? Am I at risk for low T? We’ve got answers to all these questions and more.

What is Low T?

Testosterone or “T” is a sex hormone, which is mostly produced by the testicles that get signals from the pituitary gland in the brain. Testosterone is responsible for energy levels, sex drive (libido), erectile function, muscle integrity, and mood, among many other things. If you have low testosterone, you may notice a decrease in the functions listed above.

What is a normal T level?

While different labs have variances in what “normal” levels are, the average range for men is between 400-600 ng/dL, which means that most men will operate within this range and not experience symptoms of low T. However each patient is different. For example, there are men with a level in the 200s who do not have any symptoms, as well as men with a level in the 400s that experience low T symptoms. Your doctor can help you determine what level you should be at.

Should I seek low T treatment?

Treatment is initiated based on lab results, as well as personal history of symptoms. We typically recommend treatment if your testosterone is below or around 350 and you are experiencing symptoms. Generally speaking, testosterone >600 is a very good level to be at. If a patient at this level is experiencing symptoms, testosterone may not be the cause.

How does low T treatment work?

Testosterone can be raised with medication and also through certain lifestyle changes.

Medications raise the testosterone in your blood either by delivering the hormone directly to your body (through cream, gels, injections, etc.) or by increasing testosterone production by your testicles (clomiphene).

The best thing you can do to naturally increase your T level is to improve your diet and exercise. The central belly fat in particular converts testosterone into estrogen, leaving you with a lower T level. By maintaining a healthy diet and doing cardiovascular exercise, body fat decreases. Low vitamin D has also been linked to low testosterone. Try multivitamins, a vitamin D supplement, or thirty minutes in the sun to increase vitamin D levels. Getting proper sleep and seeing your primary care physician yearly for labs and a physical are also important.

Is low T treatment dangerous?

Potential risks of an increased testosterone level include – cardiac events such as increasing blood pressure, heart attacks, and stroke. While there are benefits to testosterone treatment, there are serious risks as well if levels are too high. Testosterone does not cause prostate cancer, however it can cause progression if cancer is present. If you are 55 or older or have family history of prostate cancer, let your doctor know prior to starting testosterone treatment.