As a culture, we place a huge emphasis on testosterone. It occupies a special place in the popular imagination as the fuel behind sculpted bodies, high sex drives, and what it means to be a man.
But testosterone is more than just a sex hormone, and having a high testosterone reading isn’t just about bragging rights. Your testosterone levels can impact your total body health.
Although reading testosterone numbers isn’t an exact science, if your total testosterone is low, then it’s likely that you’ll notice. From men’s health perspective testosterone level testing is important. Here’s what you need to know about what testosterone means for your body and what you can do to stay healthy as you age.
What is Testosterone?
Testosterone is the primary sex hormone in males. Although it doesn’t appear to play a prominent part in your life until puberty, testosterone’s role actually begins in the womb. Your introduction to testosterone as a fetus is what caused your male sex organs to develop.
As you reach sexual maturity, testosterone contributes to biological processes that result in your having:
- A deeper voice
- Facial and pubic hair
- Increased muscle strength and size
- Bone growth and strength
Of course, testosterone also plays a role in your sex life. For most men, it’s when your sex life starts to change — or even takes a nosedive — that you start to wonder: is something up with my testosterone levels?
Men put a lot of emphasis on their perception of testosterone. Popular belief says that having lots of testosterone means your more masculine and low testosterone somehow makes you less manly. In reality, your testosterone level and its impact on your body and your health are a lot more complicated than ‘manliness’.
What’s a ‘Normal’ Testosterone Level?
The level of testosterone produced by your body varies by age. But it’s important to understand that the ‘normal’ level of testosterone in your bloodstream depends on many different factors, like protein status to thyroid function and more.
It’s also helpful to know that as a male, your testosterone levels will be at their peak as you go through adolescence and enter early adulthood. In fact, as an adolescent, your brain pours out sex hormones, adrenal stress hormones, and growth hormones, all of which play a role in brain development. Your testosterone levels increase 10x during adolescence.
That peak starts to disappear pretty quickly. Once you reach 30, you may see your testosterone levels decline by 1% per year.
What Are the Symptoms of Low Testosterone Levels?
The American Urological Association (AUA) defines testosterone deficiency as less than 300 nanograms per deciliter of blood.
Defining age- and symptom-specific testosterone thresholds for ‘normal’ and low testosterone is challenging. You might experience different symptoms as your testosterone levels change. What’s more, not all men will notice any significant changes in their bodies, even if their testosterone levels hit the floor.
Sexual function tends to be where men see the first signs of low testosterone. You may experience:
- Reduced or low sexual desire
- Fewer spontaneous erections
- Erectile dysfunction (ED)
If you’re like most men, your sex drive will be your best barometer of your own testosterone levels.
However, low testosterone can also be characterized by issues like:
- Decreased bone density
- Reduced muscle mass and strength
- Fatigue and sleep pattern disruption
- Difficulty concentrating
In some cases, you may experience abnormally low testosterone levels because of a disease called male hypogonadism. If you have male hypogonadism, then your body isn’t just losing testosterone as you age. It’s struggling to produce enough testosterone at all, which accounts for your low hormone levels. Also it’s worth mentioning some common myths, meta studies have show no link between low testosterone and prostate cancer or testosterone supplements and prostate cancer.
Male hypogonadism can be congenital (inherited), but you can also experience it with no family history. Some of the possible primary causes include:
- Radiation/trauma to testes
- Testicular torsion
- Complications from mumps, chlamydia or gonorrhea
Can You Have Too Much Testosterone?
Experiencing high testosterone naturally is very rare in men, and testing for “too much” testosterone usually only occurs in women.
The only point when you might have too much testosterone naturally is in the womb. When a fetus develops, their testosterone must hover around a specific point to ensure healthy fetal brain development. There may be a link between high levels of amniotic testosterone and autism.
In other words, having too much testosterone as an adolescent or adult is highly unlikely unless you have a specific underlying condition, such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH).
What is Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH)?
Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is a group of conditions characterised by a larger than usual adrenal gland. Being a congenital disease, it’s present at birth, and it’s passed on from parent to child.
Your adrenal glands are on the tops of your kidneys, and they play a role in the release of hormones in the body. When your adrenal glands are larger than they should be, your body struggles to cope with physiological stress. However, CAH is best known for increasing your androgen (male hormones produced by both males and females) levels, which can cause precocious puberty. If you’re a boy, precocious puberty means you go through puberty before age 9 rather than around age 12.
Children with CAHl need to take aldosterone or cortisol replacement therapy for the rest of their lives to monitor their hormones. If they experience signs of precocious puberty, they may need further hormone treatment.
If you have CAH, then you were likely diagnosed either at birth or as a young child. Children with CAH require lifelong care from both endocrinologists and urologists and regular hormone and steroid monitoring.
How Do You Test Your Testosterone Level?
Testosterone level testing is the product of a quick blood or saliva sample. Common practice suggests that the best time to get an indication of your peak testosterone levels is in the morning right after you wake up. However, new research says that you can probably extend the window until around early afternoon.
Home Testosterone Testing Explained
While you can visit your general physician to begin learning more about your hormone levels, home testosterone tests are also available through services like letsgetchecked.com.
In the past, home testosterone testing was limited to saliva testing. Today, as mens health screening is more common, you can collect your own blood samples using a pin prick test on your finger that’s not much different from measuring your blood sugar if you’re diabetic.
You can then send away your sample back to your testing provider, who will process your sample and provide your test results either through an online dashboard or through a phone call from their healthcare team who will explain your total testosterone test results.
Testing letsgetchecked.com home testosterone testing kit
- Everything arrived in a discrete package
2. Box looks super professional
3. Take sample and send back to letsgetcheck.com
4. Wait a few days and then get your results (couldn’t be easier or more discrete)
What is Testosterone Replacement Therapy?
For men experiencing abnormally low levels of testosterone and severe symptoms, there is help in the form of testosterone replacement therapy. Typically, testosterone replacement therapy is used to help men dealing with male hypogonadism create more testosterone when their body can’t do it on its own. Boosting low testosterone levels is important because testosterone’s role in your body goes way beyond your sex drive: it also plays a role in your metabolism, brain function, and bone and body composition.
You typically don’t need to see a specialist to get testosterone replacement therapy. Most prescriptions come from primary care physicians.
While testosterone replacement therapy has benefits for men with the symptoms of male hypogonadism, it’s unclear whether and how much testosterone replacement helps otherwise healthy men experiencing a drop in testosterone as a product of ageing. There are also a range of natural testosterone supplements such as Hunter Test you can take that can help increase testosterone levels.
In other words, your hormone levels and symptoms need to be showing signs of hypogonadism. For example, you won’t benefit from testosterone therapy if you have normal testosterone levels but you struggle with erectile dysfunction (ED). In fact, hormonal dysfunction is very rarely the cause of ED.
Testosterone Level Testing FAQ
How Do You Test Your Testosterone Levels?
You take a series of blood tests early in the day to identify your mean peak testosterone level.
How Can I Test My Testosterone Levels at home?
At home test kits allow you to create blood samples using a finger prick. Simply collect the sample according to the providers’ instructions and send it back to the provider’s lab for testing
What is a Testosterone Blood Test for?
A testosterone blood test can determine whether you have low testosterone. When combined with other symptoms, the test results may suggest that you’ll benefit from testosterone replacement therapy.
What is a Normal Testosterone Level?
A normal testosterone level ranges from 300-1,000 ng/dL for men. If your level drops below 300 ng/dL on multiple tests, then you may have low testosterone.
What are Symptoms of Low Testosterone
The easiest barometer to use for low testosterone is sexual drive, however, don’t forget as you age lower sex drive is normal
Can you Test Testosterone Levels at home?
Yes you can test your testosterone levels at home using services such as letgetchecked.com