Testosterone is produced naturally, mainly by the testicles, and is important for a man’s physical and emotional well-being. It’s responsible for many things in the body, including the normal growth of muscle and bone, the production of sperm and the desire to have sex. Find out more about testosterone and low testosterone.

Testosterone levels typically fall as a person gets older, but this can also be due to other reasons such as a medical condition, physical injury or medication or drug/alcohol abuse. Cancer treatment, an injury to the testicles or Klinefelter syndrome can all lead to a testicular problem that results in low testosterone.

The pituitary gland and the hypothalamus in the brain can also cause low testosterone. In this case, the testicles are “normal” but they do not work properly. Conditions such as HIV/AIDS, obesity, pituitary disorders or an addiction to opiates can suppress the function of the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus, all resulting in reduced testosterone production.

Common symptoms of low testosterone include tiredness, reduced well-being, low mood or depression, loss of concentration, hot flushes and sweats, weight gain, male breasts, loss of muscle mass and strength and loss of body hair. Sexual symptoms include reduced sex drive, problems with maintaining an erection and difficulty in achieving orgasm. Some people with low testosterone have all of these symptoms, while others may only have a few. None of these symptoms are specific to low testosterone, so it is important to talk to a doctor to make sure that low testosterone is not confused with other medical conditions. Find out more about the signs and symptoms of low testosterone.

The chances of having low testosterone are higher when certain other conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, taking long-term opioids, erectile dysfunction, high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and osteoporosis, are also present. Being born with undescended testicles, or having the genetic condition Klinefelter syndrome, or having mumps as a child can also result in low testosterone.

Improvements in overall health could help to boost naturally occurring levels of testosterone. Maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, reducing stress and getting enough rest will all have a positive effect on testosterone levels. Eating a healthy, balanced diet will help improve general well-being. Consult your doctor or nurse to get dietary advice.

Assessing whether a man has low testosterone may take several appointments with a GP or specialist. As well as noting a man’s symptoms, a blood test is needed to measure testosterone levels. Fasting testosterone levels should be measured from 7 to 11 AM on at least two occasions with a reliable method, preferably 4 weeks apart and, if possible, not while you are ill. If the first blood test is abnormal, another one should be done a few weeks later to confirm the diagnosis. Find out more about what will happen at the doctors.

Low testosterone may lead to a low sperm count, but testosterone therapy (TTh) may also do the same – the relationship between testosterone levels and sperm production is complicated. If infertility is a concern, talk to your doctor.