What is Androgen/testosterone deficiency?
Androgen deficiency is a condition in which tissues do not have enough exposure to androgens for normal function. In females the decrease in sex hormones (oestrogen) is sudden and associated with obvious symptoms including the stopping of the menstrual bleeding and known as the menopause. In men any decrease androgens tends to be gradual and is therefore more difficult to detect (blood tests are required to confirm a deficiency). It has been given various names including the “andropause” or “male menopause”. Androgen deficiency may occur as a result of a testicular problem, a lack of hormonal drive from the brain to the testis or by simple ageing. As men age, testosterone levels begin to fall from the age of 40 years. Some estimates suggest that by the age of 65 years, 10% of men will have androgen deficiency and by the age of 70 years this figure will have risen to over 20%.
Men with androgen/ testosterone deficiency commonly complain of low energy levels, low mood, irritability, poor concentration and low libido (sex drive).
What are Androgens / testosterone and what do they do?
Androgens are the sex steroids or hormones that produce changes in body shape (muscle gain, fat distribution) and secondary sexual characteristics (hair and beard growth, penile growth) typical of men. The most important androgen in men is testosterone. Androgens play a major and essential role in reproductive and sexual function in the mature male. Testosterone has also been shown to have an effect on energy levels, concentration, libido and bone thickness.
Do I have Androgen deficiency?/ What are the signs?
It is not possible to guess who is likely to be at risk of having androgen deficiency, unless you have another medical condition or a genetic disorder that may affect the ability of your testes to produce testosterone. Some signs that occur when androgen deficiency is present are also seen with other more commonly occurring medical conditions.
Signs of androgen deficiency in ageing men
Men with low testosterone complain of a number of symptoms that include fatigue, low energy levels, low mood, irritability, poor concentration and reduced libido.
Low testosterone levels can also contribute to problems with achieving and maintaining an erection, although androgen deficiency is an uncommon cause of erectile problems. Erectile problems are not often due only to low testosterone levels but rather to changes to the blood or nerve supply to the penis and/or emotional changes.
As men age, the amount of body fat increases and muscle mass and strength decreases. A fall in testosterone levels is likely to contribute to these changes. Low testosterone levels are also a risk factor for the development of osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) which leads to a greater chance of fracturing bones, especially in the hip and the spine.