Testosterone is considered a male sex hormone. But women also need testosterone in small amounts. This hormone is very important for healthy growth and reproduction, in both men and women.
Inadequate levels of testosterone levels can trigger a variety of physical and mental symptoms. If the testosterone deficiency is left untreated, more medical complications may occur.
The long-term complications of low testosterone depend on two factors. When the condition developed and the duration for which it remained untreated.
Effects of Low T in Men
The signs and symptoms of low testosterone may be mild initially. You may experience fatigue, hair fall, insomnia, poor sex drive, etc. But if the testosterone deficiency is not corrected, then more complications can develop.
Long-term, untreated testosterone deficiency may lead to:
- Kyphosis: Kyphosis is defined as “A forward rounding of the back” (x). This is a condition in which your spine is curved. Low testosterone levels if gone untreated for a long time can result in a decline in bone density. This overtime may cause kyphosis (x). Severe kyphosis may cause pain and disfigurement.
- Lordosis: This is the “inward curve of your spine or lower back”. Considered one of the long-term effects of defective bone health, low testosterone for a prolonged period can cause lordosis.
- Dry eyes: As the name suggests, “dry eyes” is a condition in which your eyes are abnormally dry. The eyes aren’t lubricated enough. This can lead to further complications such as redness, stinging, and infection of the eye. Low T can be one of the causes of dry eye (x).
- Gynecomastia: Larger boobs or gynecomastia are seen in some men with low T (x). This is an abnormal enlargement of breast tissues in men. Men produce both the sex hormones, testosterone, and estrogen. Normally testosterone and estrogen oppose each other. A high amount of estrogen will make your body lower testosterone production and vice versa. Gynecomastia is a symptom of high estrogen and low testosterone.
- Cellulite: Cellulite is the jiggly, lumpy skin that usually occurs on your thighs, buttocks, and belly. Insulin resistance and low testosterone are both involved in cellulite formation (x). Beneath your skin, there is a layer of connective tissue. Fat storage cells can be found under this. When your fat storage cells overflow, the connective tissues and the layer of skin may get overstretched at some points. As the fat cells bulge out from these points, into the upper layers of the skin – it gives the skin the dimpled look of cellulite.
- Varicose veins: Varicose veins can be found in many males with low testosterone (x). Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted veins that bulge out of your skin, especially in the legs and feet. The primary cause of varicose veins is estrogen excess. High estrogen levels dilate the blood vessels and weaken the valves in the veins (x), (x). These valves are the ones that ensure smooth one-directional blood flow from different parts of the body to the heart (x). Weakened valves impair the blood flow, causing accumulation of blood in veins and making it distended. In men, estrogen is primarily produced from testosterone. Therefore, when the estrogen levels are high, the body down-regulates testosterone production. This leads to low T. Varicose veins in men can thus be an indication of low T and high estrogen.
- Hypotonic lax testicles: Testosterone plays a key role in the development of the testis. Insufficient testosterone levels can result in smaller than usual size or shrink testicles. Atrophy of the testicles, reduced testicles, or hypotonic lax testicles are some of the terms used to describe this condition.
- Low sex drive: You are said to have a low libido if you feel a decreased interest in sexual activity. Your libido or sex drive varies with age and time. But if you have been experiencing low libido for a long period, you may be having low testosterone levels.
- Low sperm count: Low levels of testosterone can lead to decreased production of sperm (x). Low sperm count is diagnosed when a man has less than 15 million sperm per ml of semen. This condition is called oligozoospermia (x). This decreases his partner’s chance of getting pregnant.
- Erectile dysfunction (ED): This is a condition in which a man can’t get an erection, or maintain it long enough during sex. ED can happen occasionally to all men at some time or the other due to stress or emotional difficulties. But if this is a frequent occurrence, it may be due to low testosterone levels (x).
- Hair loss: Hair loss may be due to very high or low testosterone levels. Low T can lead to thinning of the hair or small spots of baldness. The receding of hair in the front part of the scalp is known as male pattern baldness or androgenic alopecia.
- Loss of muscle mass: Low testosterone can lead to loss of muscle mass and muscle degradation (x). Muscle cells have “androgen receptors” that allow testosterone to connect with them. Testosterone stimulates the formation of skeletal muscle tissue. It also helps maintain muscle fiber.
- Decreased bone mass: Like muscles, bone cells also contain androgen receptors. Testosterone plays a major role in all stages of bone formation. It has a direct impact on bone quality and bone volume. It. So low testosterone can lead to decreased bone mass.
- Hot flashes: Most often, night sweats and hot flashes are linked to post-menopausal women. But studies have shown that men can also experience hot flashes. Low levels of testosterone have been linked to hot flashes in men (x).
- Fatigue: If you are experiencing unexplained fatigue, this may be due to low T levels (x). Testosterone is required for the production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells (RBCs). Low testosterone can cause a reduction in RBC production. This can result in anemia and low energy levels.
- Lack of motivation: Behaviors such as confidence, decision making, risk-taking, and motivation are directly linked to testosterone, in men (x, x). Low testosterone levels may cause a lack of motivation, inability to focus, irritability, etc.
- Depression: Testosterone has a significant influence on the human brain (x). Studies have observed that testosterone deficiency leads to depressed mood and feeling low (x).
Effects of Low T in Women
Low testosterone can cause mental and physical problems in women. Weight gain, sluggishness, muscle weakness, sex drive, and decreased sexual satisfaction are some of the common effects of low T in women. Depression, poor memory, and nervousness are also associated with low T in women too.
- Decreased sexual satisfaction: Testosterone is responsible for sexual desire, libido, and sexual satisfaction in women. It is the main hormone that is important in arousing and maintaining women’s sex drive. Low testosterone is a probable cause of decreased sexual satisfaction (x).
- Low sex drive: Low testosterone can be the cause of reduced sex drive in women. This is mainly observed in post-menopausal women. However, testosterone therapy has been found to improve libido and sexual desire in women (x).
- Muscle laxity: As testosterone is important in building muscles, low T levels can cause muscle laxity in women.
- Day and night sweat outbursts: Excessive sweating that literally soaks your clothes can be a result of hormonal imbalance such as low testosterone. Night sweat outbursts and hot flashes are common complaints among post-menopausal women with low T levels.
- Vaginal atrophy, dryness, pruritus: Vaginal atrophy occurs when the vagina becomes dry and inflamed. It not only affects your sexual life but also can cause difficulties in passing urine. Itching, burning, and pain are some of the common symptoms.
- Pale dry eyes: Dry eyes or pale dry eyes are common in post-menopausal women. They may experience reduced tears production and irritation of the eyes (x). As testosterone and estrogen influence the production of tears, low T is a probable cause of pale dry eyes.
- Weight gain: A very common side effect of low testosterone is weight gain. Testosterone is important for fueling metabolism. It also increases muscle mass which, in turn, boosts your resting metabolism. This is the calorie that is burnt when you are resting. Testosterone deficiency slows metabolism.
- Cellulite: Cellulite is common in women with excess estrogen and lowers testosterone. This impairs collagen formation and the integrity of the blood vessels. High estrogen also leads to excess fat that pops out via the weakening connective tissues of the skin. This gives the dimpling effect of cellulite.
- Aging appearance: Hormones play an important role in how you look. Testosterone and estrogen are crucial for making your skin look younger. The cause is their effect on the muscles, the production of the hyaluronic acid that they produce, and their effect on fat layers. Hyaluronic acid is the one that keeps your skin firm, helps retain moisture, and prevents wrinkles (x). Therefore, lower levels of testosterone are linked to dry skin and wrinkles that give you an aging appearance.
- Fatigue and Sluggishness: Lack of energy, sluggishness, and fatigue are seen in women with low testosterone levels. Less production of red blood cells results in lower oxygen levels that sap your energy resulting in fatigue.
- Nervous: “Testosterone is a neuroactive steroid” (x). It plays an important role in the functions of the brain and the nerves. Deficiency in testosterone may cause nervousness, depression, and anxiety (x).
- Lack of mental firmness: Not being able to take a firm decision, once in a while, is a common occurrence for all of us. But a continuous lack of mental firmness and decisiveness may be due to low testosterone levels.
- Poor memory: Low testosterone can lower your power of understanding and the ability to remember (x).
The Final Note
Treating the cause of low testosterone production in the body is of utmost importance. It not only hampers your physical growth but has far-reaching effects on every part of your system.
Some people may get away with mild symptoms such as hair loss, weight gain, mood swings, and low energy. But others may experience more serious medical complications such as infertility, muscle laxity, joint pain, and mood disorders.
A proper diagnosis and the right treatment can help correct your testosterone deficiency.