Although many people believe that low testosterone is a problem that only affects older men, that isn’t always the case. While around 35% of men aged 80 or over suffer from this problem, up to 10% of 40 – 60 year-olds are sufferers too.
Male testosterone deficiency can affect males of all ages, even babies and children depending on the cause. Here, we take a closer look at some of the reasons that lie behind this medical issue.
Is My Testosterone Deficiency Simply Due To Getting Older?
There is a term that is used occasionally to describe testosterone levels that are decreased because of normal aging – Andropause. Males have increasing levels of testosterone until they reach 17 years old, then the levels remain fairly stable until they reach around 40 when the level begins to reduce by 1.2% – 2% each year. Therefore, men in their 70s and 80s will have significantly lower levels of testosterone in most cases than younger men.
Primary Or Secondary Hypogonadism
There are two main types of male testosterone deficiency – primary and secondary. Primary testosterone deficiency (or, to give it its medical name, hypogonadism) is caused by the testes being underactive and thus unable to manufacture enough testosterone for proper health and growth.
Secondary testosterone deficiency is due to a damaged hypothalamus or pituitary gland – the areas of the brain that control the testes’ hormone production.
Causes Of Primary Hypogonadism
Underactive testes may be due to genetic causes from birth, or in some cases, the cause is an illness or accident.
Conditions that are inherited and that result in testosterone deficiency include:
- Klinefelter’s Syndrome
- Noonan Syndrome
- Undescended Testicles
- Ambiguous Genitalia
Damage may be caused to the testicles resulting in primary hypogonadism in several ways, including:
- A physical injury or infection that has affected both testicles.
- Cancer treatment with radiation or chemotherapy.
Causes Of Secondary Hypogonadism
The pituitary gland and the hypothalamus can be affected by substances like alcohol and drugs, diseases, or even the natural process of aging. These factors can impair these areas of the brain and prevent them from producing sufficient amounts of testosterone.
Some diseases and inherited conditions that can cause secondary testosterone deficiency include:
- Disorders of the pituitary gland due to tumours, kidney failure, or substance abuse.
- Inflammatory conditions like sarcoidosis, histiocytosis, and tuberculosis.
- Kallmann Syndrome.
- AIDS or HIV.
- Cirrhosis of the liver.
- Type II Diabetes
It’s also possible to develop secondary testosterone deficiency due to obesity, taking steroids or opioid pain medications, severe physical or emotional stress, or simply getting older. Secondary hypogonadism may also be caused by malnutrition, and it sometimes occurs in men who suffer from eating disorders.
Can I Have Both Primary And Secondary Testosterone Deficiency?
Some people have primary hypogonadism only, while others only have secondary testosterone deficiency. Others will have mixed hypogonadism. This is something that becomes more common as men get older, as well as in people who are having glucocorticoid therapy. Mixed testosterone deficiency may also affect people suffering from thalassemia, sickle-cell disease, or alcoholism.
Fortunately, there are treatments available for male testosterone deficiency, and seeking advice from a medical professional is the best course of action to pinpoint the cause and to get the most appropriate treatment for you.