Testosterone begins influencing our lives even before we are born. As early as four weeks of gestation Testosterone starts to effect changes on our physiognomy. At this stage, essential differentiation occurs, such as phallic, urethral, and scrotal formation. The first indications of a prostate gland and seminal vesicles also happen at this early stage. In the third trimester, testosterone acts on the fetus to masculinize it. Later on, it is testosterone that initiates adulthood in the pubescent male.
With the passing of the years, well into adulthood, testosterone continues to play a crucial role in a man’s body. Testosterone has multiple functions. For example, at this stage, Testosterone will be involved in the development of muscle mass, strength, and endurance. Testosterone will also be intricately involved in platelet aggregation, sperm development, and sexual arousal, to name a few. Later in life, testosterone will help with memory, bone mineral density, liver function, and insulin metabolism.
As we grow old our testosterone production naturally falls; and when such an important substance, one that has been shaping our lives since before birth, suddenly wanes, the effects on our bodies and quality of life are profound.
LATE ONSET HYPOGONADISM
Late-Onset Hypogonadism is a condition developed by men suffering from low levels of measurable testosterone. As early as the late 40s men with sustained levels of low testosterone often develop a series of symptoms that gravely impact their quality of life. Amongst these symptoms, depression, loss of sexual desire, and erectile dysfunction are most common; however, significant loss of muscle mass, marked weight gain, lethargy, cognitive deficiencies, irritability, and difficulty sleeping are also expected.
Low testosterone levels have also been linked by some studies to various chronic diseases such as Type II Diabetes, cardiovascular issues, as well as some types of cancer. Some studies have even suggested that diminished testosterone in elderly men is concomitant with higher mortality rates.
Late-Onset Hypogonadism is also known as Andropause or Male Menopause. Female Menopause is characterized by a sudden drop in hormone levels, but this is not the case in males. Males begin experiencing a gradual drop off in blood testosterone levels starting in their late 30s to the tune of 1% per year.
However, it is not unheard of for men in their early to mid-30s to have unnaturally low testosterone levels. Testosterone levels can vary dramatically between men and to a certain degree even the time of day can affect the amount of free testosterone flowing through the blood. If an individual suspects low testosterone levels at such an early age, it is imperative that he be given a proper laboratory screening. A misdiagnosis at such an early age could lead to unnecessary risks concerning Hormone replacement therapy.
Vigen, Rebecca, et al. “Association of testosterone therapy with mortality, myocardial infarction, and stroke in men with low testosterone levels.” Jama 310.17 (2013): 1829-1836.
Harman, S. Mitchell, et al. “Longitudinal effects of aging on serum total and free testosterone levels in healthy men.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 86.2 (2001): 724-731.
Laughlin, Gail A., Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, and Jaclyn Bergstrom. “Low serum testosterone and mortality in older men.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 93.1 (2008): 68-75.