Man Up: The Lowdown on Low T

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If you’re a typical guy who enjoys watching games on TV or listening to sports-talk radio, you’ve almost certainly heard the term "Low T."

Feeling tired and irritable? Packing on a few extra pounds? Things not as active in the bedroom as you’d like? Those taglines are designed to grab the attention of every male with concerns that masculinity might be slipping.

"The way that I describe it is that guys with Low T just kind of feel like they’ve lost their mojo," said Carlos Prendes, MD, CHI Health primary care provider.

"Most of those guys pretty much can relate the minute you put it in those terms."

Officially, low testosterone or Low T is diagnosed when testosterone levels fall below 300 nanograms per deciliter. Starting at age 30, a male’s testosterone level naturally begins to decrease. Prendes said the normal range for men age 18 to 80 is 250 to 830 ng/dL, but the numbers can vary.

Despite the advertising claims, Prendes said replacing testosterone “doesn’t work magic for everyone.” Treatment can take a while to yield results, and sometimes there are additional reasons men aren’t feeling their best.

"I think a lot of guys – even if they have low testosterone – that may not be the full story as to why they don’t feel the way they want to feel,” Prendes said. “Of the people who come in wondering if they might have Low T, I’d estimate that only a third of them start testosterone treatment and say they feel great again.”

Low T can sometimes be treated naturally with a combination of weight loss, exercise, reducing stress and improved diet. Treatment options include topical gels, testosterone shots or testosterone pellet injections. The chosen method often depends on cost and insurance plans.

Prendes said treatment must be approached carefully. Overly aggressive testosterone treatment can cause an increased risk of cardiovascular events, worsening sleep apnea and swelling.

What most men don’t realize is that Low T doesn’t have to be treated.

"Having low testosterone is not a fatal condition and it will not shorten your life in any way,” Prendes said. “So if you’re content with your life as it is, let it be."

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