Gradually decreasing testosterone levels can be considered a normal part of aging. It’s fairly common for men between 45 and 75 to have lower-than-normal testosterone levels, but the problem can strike at any age.
Unfortunately, low levels of testosterone cannot be attributed solely to getting older, but to underlying health problems such as obesity, diabetes, injury to the testicles, excessive alcohol consumption, cancer, pituitary gland disorders, liver or kidney disease, hypothyroidism, or even environmental toxins (including side effects of medication).
Symptoms of Low Testosterone
Adult men may experience some or all of these common symptoms of low testosterone:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Low libido
- Decreased muscle mass and strength
- Low energy
- Trouble concentrating (mental “fogginess”)
- Decrease in body hair
- Hot flashes
Not only are these symptoms annoying, but they can interfere with quality of life. Today, there is less of a stigma surrounding sexual dysfunction, which has led many men to finally visit the doctor to treat testosterone-related problems.
Related reading: to boost your testosterone levels, try a supplement like TestoGen.
Diagnosing Low Testosterone
The most accurate test to measure testosterone levels is a blood test. Saliva tests are accurate as well, but a blood test is typically accompanied by a physical exam.
Testosterone testing only shows a small part of the picture: specific testosterone levels. However, before any treatment protocol begins, it’s essential to rule out underlying conditions that have similar symptoms as low testosterone, including adrenal fatigue due to chronic stress.
A physical exam will also help spot the cause of any sudden changes in your body such as rapid loss of height, increase in breast tissue size, or abnormal weight gain.
Since testosterone levels fluctuate throughout the day and are highest in the morning, a blood test will be most accurate if taken during that peak time. Before the test, your doctor will ask you to stop taking prescription or over-the-counter medications that could affect your testosterone levels.
A doctor’s blood test determines how much “free testosterone” is circulating in your bloodstream as well as how much “total testosterone” is present. It will likely include information about the state of your hormonal balance or imbalance, which will help in diagnosing the underlying cause.
When testing for testosterone levels, certain tests give you the choice of testing for “free testosterone” or “total testosterone.” The testosterone in your body is either bound (to a protein) or unbound.
- Bound testosterone: Bound testosterone refers to testosterone that is bound to SHBG, or sex hormone binding globulin. Testosterone that is bound to SHBG is stored for later use, and not readily available for everyday bodily functioning.
- Unbound testosterone: Unbound testosterone is free to be used by the body at any time. Free testosterone levels measure the amount of unbound testosterone in the blood; this is the level you need to know to determine whether your body has enough testosterone to use, or if this level if insufficient.
If you’re experiencing some or all of the low-testosterone symptoms, you may be tempted to test your testosterone levels at home using a home testosterone testing kit like this one here.
This is a great starting point, but be aware: unlike a comprehensive exam (blood and physical), it won’t alert you to or diagnose the reasons you have low testosterone.
When you are considering home testing, first determine if you need to know only your testosterone numbers or a more comprehensive look at your hormonal balance. A balance of hormones including testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, and Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is necessary for optimal health. Certain hormone imbalances can be relatively minor, but as with any imbalance, the long-term effects can multiply and over time, become more serious.
Before you decide to try a home test kit, make sure you understand:
- How it works
- What information the test will give you
- What to do with the results
Choosing a Home Testing Kit
Testosterone home test kits, also known as Sal-T tests, are widely available. They use your saliva (and some use small blood samples as well) to accurately measure testosterone levels. The Sal-T test kits involve gathering a saliva sample and sending your sample to a testing lab for diagnosis.
You have a wide range of choices in home testosterone test kits:
- Kits range in price from $69 to $110
- Collection methods: saliva, blood, or both
- Markers measured: some measure only free testosterone; some measure total testosterone
- Most feature instructional videos; online/phone/email support; and some accept FSA/HSA payments
Pros of using home testosterone test kits:
- Some feature comprehensive hormonal testing panels
- Some feature testing for both free testosterone (saliva) and total testosterone (blood)
- Easy testing and quick results
- Some accept FSA/HSA payments
Cons of using home testosterone test kits:
- Some do not test total testosterone, only free testosterone
- Others do not test free testosterone, only total testosterone
- Some do not test for SHBG
Related reading: Low t-levels? Raise them with Prime Male testosterone booster!
Working With Your Results
Knowledge is great, but useless unless it’s applied. These home testing kits are a great starting point that gives you an overview of your current situation. Then, you have options of trying to raise your testosterone levels naturally through lifestyle changes, or, if the levels are not manageable by lifestyle changes alone, consulting with a doctor about testosterone replacement therapy.
While you don’t need to go to the doctor to test your testosterone levels, it’s advisable to do so. You can start with a home test kit to get a good idea of whether low testosterone is the issue. However, there may be underlying factors that impact your testosterone levels. These will not show up in a home test kit.
Use home testing as a starting point, and then work with your doctor to safely increase testosterone levels and improve your overall health and wellbeing.
Whether you choose to elevate your testosterone levels through lifestyle or through testosterone replacement or supplements like these ones, you can revert to normal levels fairly quickly, and enjoy a better sex life and heightened wellbeing well into your senior years.