Worried your testosterone levels might be lower than average? Discover the signs and symptoms of low testosterone, plus the best treatment options available, with this expert advice from Marc Donovan, chief pharmacist at Boots…

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marc donopharmacist at Boots pharmacists; man wearing suit smiling at the camera

Marc Donovan, chief pharmacist at Boots, explains the key signs of low testosterone

What is testosterone? 

Testosterone is a hormone produced by the testicles. It stimulates the development and maintenance of male characteristics, including appearance and body hair, sexual development and sex drive, as well as muscle and bone mass.

Why do testosterone levels drop?

As men age, testosterone levels can start to fall and a gradual decline is considered normal. According to the NHS, it’s usually a steady decline at less than 2% a year from around the age of 30 to 40.

What are the symptoms of low testosterone? 

When men reach their late 40s to early 50s, some may experience depression and loss of sex drive as their testosterone levels fall. This is commonly known as the ‘male menopause’.

Other key symptoms of low testosterone include: changes in mood and irritability, a lack of energy and enthusiasm, difficulty sleeping or increased tiredness, loss of muscle mass and reduced ability to exercise, fat redistribution, poor concentration and short-term memory loss. 

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Does low testosterone affect erectile dysfunction (ED)?

Low testosterone can cause erectile dysfunction (ED). However, erectile dysfunction can also be a result of stress, tiredness, anxiety or drinking too much alcohol. It affects most men at some point in their lives.

If you’re having problems getting and keeping an erection, it does not necessarily mean you have low levels of testosterone. Immediate ways to address it include maintaining a healthy weight by eating a balanced diet and regular exercise. You should also take steps to reduce your stress levels, lower your alcohol intake, get more sleep and stop smoking. 

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How serious is low testosterone? 

Significantly low testosterone levels that develop later in life, particularly in men who are obese or have type 2 diabetes, may be a result of late-onset hypogonadism and can cause symptoms of the ‘male menopause’.

Hypogonadism is where the testes produce few or no hormones. It’s an uncommon and specific medical condition that’s not a normal part of ageing. Your doctor can diagnose hypogonadism by measuring your testosterone levels through a blood test.

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What is the best treatment for low testosterone?

If your GP thinks you might have a testosterone deficiency and the results back that up, they may refer you to a specialist. Your specialist may then recommend testosterone replacement to correct the hormone deficiency and help with the symptoms.

My advice to anyone with symptoms that are interfering with everyday life and happiness – especially men under 40 – is to speak to a pharmacist or GP as soon as possible. There are several options or treatments that can help. A discussion with a healthcare professional can ensure that you get the right support depending on your personal circumstances.

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