Testosterone levels naturally drop with age and can cause symptoms. Most men begin to experience a gradual decline in testosterone levels after the age of 30. For older men, it’s essential to determine if a low testosterone level is due to normal ageing or to other conditions. Testosterone is a hormone found in humans; in men, the testicles primarily make testosterone. Testosterone helps maintain men’s bone density, fat distribution, muscle strength and mass, facial and body hair, red blood cell production, sex drive, and sperm production.
Men over 50 may start experiencing changes in sexual function, physical changes, and emotional changes. Signs of low testosterone are often subtle.
What are the symptoms of low testosterone levels in men over 50?
- Low sex drive. Testosterone plays a vital role in the male sex drive or libido. Some people may experience a decline in sex drive as they age, but those with low testosterone will likely experience a more drastic drop.
- Difficulty achieving and maintaining an erection. Testosterone aids in achieving and maintaining an erection. It tells brain receptors to produce nitric oxide, a molecule that helps trigger a series of chemical reactions to produce an erection. With low testosterone, you may have difficulty achieving an erection before sex or having spontaneous erections during sleep.
- Hot flashes. Hot flashes can be a sign of low testosterone. It can feel like a sudden sensation of warmth. You may also experience heavy sweating, reddening of the skin, and night sweats.
- Hair loss. Testosterone plays a role in hair production. Balding is a natural part of growing older for many males, and while it can be hereditary, those with low testosterone may also lose body and facial hair.
- Fatigue. Males with low testosterone may report extreme fatigue and decreased energy. You may have low testosterone if you’re consistently tired despite getting plenty of sleep or find it harder to get motivated to exercise.
- Decreased muscle mass. Testosterone affects muscle mass but not necessarily strength or function. Males with low T may notice a decrease in muscle mass.
- Increased body fat. Low testosterone levels may cause increased body fat or gynecomastia, which is enlarged breast tissue. Gynecomastia can occur when the body has an imbalance of testosterone and estrogen.
- Decreased bone mass. Testosterone helps produce and strengthen bone, so males with low testosterone, especially older men, may have lower bone volume and be more susceptible to bone fractures.
- Mood changes. Males with low testosterone can experience mood changes. Since testosterone influences many of the body’s physical processes, it can also affect mood and mental capacity.
- Memory. Both testosterone levels and cognitive functions, particularly memory, decline with age. As a result, doctors have theorized that lower testosterone levels could contribute to affected memory.
- Smaller testicle and penis size. The body requires testosterone to develop the penis and testicles, so low testosterone levels could contribute to a disproportionately smaller penis or testicles.
- Low blood counts. Low testosterone may increase the risk of anaemia. When researchers administered testosterone gel to males with low testosterone and anaemia, they saw improved blood counts compared to males who used a placebo. Blood counts also improved in males with known causes of anaemia, like iron deficiency.
When should men over 50 see a doctor for low testosterone?
It’s common for older men to experience drops in their testosterone levels as they age. However, if these levels are significantly low, there can be several short-term and long-term symptoms that men might experience. Men over 50 should consult a general practitioner for symptoms such as lowered sex drive, decreased erectile function, and fatigue.