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The causes and symptoms of low testosterone

The Causes And Symptoms Of Low Testosterone

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Low testosterone, what’s the deal? We’re all probably aware that testosterone plays an essential role in making a baby. But how much do you know about this important male sexual hormone? And what can the impact of low testosterone be on your fertility and general health? 

Let’s start with the basics. Testosterone is a hormone produced in your testicles. It kicks in properly around puberty and is responsible for things like hair and height growth, increased muscle mass and all those annoying random erections you get during school years. 

Testosterone also stimulates sperm production as well as a man’s sex drive – hence why it is so important infertility. Read more about this in our blog article “Testosterone And Sperm Quality”.


Low testosterone – what causes it?


There are a few reasons that can be behind low testosterone – aka low T. 

One is age. We talk a lot about the decrease of female fertility after a certain age – but men are not immune to the tick of the biological clock. On average, testosterone actually decreases by around 1% each year after thirty,

However, there are a bunch of other things that can contribute to low T including injury, illness and hormonal imbalances. As there can be various causes it’s important to understand the signs you should be aware of – and when to reach out to your doctor. 


Low testosterone  – the symptoms


Low T and your sex life 


Noticeably low sex drive


It’s understandable if you’re not always up for sex, but if you’re noticing that your sexual desire is seriously plummeting, it might be a sign of low testosterone. Our sex drive fluctuates naturally all the time – if you’re tired, stressed or ill, or if your relationship is going through a rough patch, you’re less likely to be up for it. 

But when low sex drive is down to low testosterone, it tends to be noticeable. You may find yourself unable to get in the mood, even if everything else is great or that you are struggling to find the desire to do it in general, rather than occasionally. 


Difficulty with erections


But what if you want to have sex but have difficulty rising to the occasion? Difficulty with erections – or erectile dysfunction – is a key sign of low T. Testosterone alone doesn’t make erections happen, but its job is to stimulate receptors in the brain that makes nitric oxide. 

What’s nitric oxide I hear you ask. Nitric oxide is a molecule that helps trigger a chemical chain reaction that leads to an erection. If you’re dealing with low testosterone, you may have difficulty achieving an erection prior to sex, or in general (like when you’re sleeping). 

However, Low T is only one of the factors that contribute to erectile dysfunction and research is a bit inconclusive about whether testosterone replacement therapy can help. A review of studies that looked into the benefit of testosterone therapy for erectile dysfunction found that only half saw improvement. So whilst difficulties with erections can be a sign of low T, it may also be linked to other conditions or lifestyle factors including stress, smoking, diabetes or thyroid problems. 





Low T and your body 


Hair loss


Just like testosterone kick starts that body hair growth spurt during puberty, losing hair can be a sign that your testosterone levels are decreasing. Of course, balding is a natural part of ageing for many guys – and it might be something you’ve inherited. However, men with low T may lose the hair on the face and the body, as well as their head. 


Loss of muscle mass & increased body fat


In the same way, you grow body hair during puberty, this is also the time many guys fill out with muscle – and that’s largely down to testosterone. Men with low T might notice that their muscle mass goes down – although it may not be evident in the gym, as sources show that it doesn’t necessarily affect strength or function. 

Whilst muscle mass can go down, your body fat can go up. Of course, this can also be down to things like diet and lack of exercise, but if testosterone is the culprit, you might notice fat growing more around your chest. This is believed to happen if you have an imbalance between estrogen and testosterone. 


Smaller testicles


Whilst the size of your balls doesn’t always correlate with infertility or low T, the hormone does contribute to the development of the penis and testicles. Lower levels can contribute to smaller testicles – and sometimes penis – compared to a guy with average testosterone levels. 


Low T and your mental health 


Mood changes 


Something that’s interesting to note – is that many symptoms of low T are similar to depression. Men with low testosterone often report increased irritability and low mood and lack of focus. With any hormonal imbalance, mood swings can be common and research has even shown that low testosterone can contribute to mental health issues. If you’re struggling with your mental health in any way, never be afraid to reach out to your doctor. Even if low testosterone isn’t the cause, it’s important that you find out what is and get help.  




Men with low T may also experience a drop in energy levels or extreme fatigue. Try to ensure you’re getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night and exercising regularly, but if you find you’re still really tired – or don’t even have the energy to work out – it could be a sign your testosterone levels aren’t where you want them to be.  




Just like testosterone levels decline with age, so does brain function – especially memory – and doctors have theorised that there could be a link. Some small research studies have indicated that giving men a testosterone supplement can improve memory for men with low levels. 

Many of these symptoms can be attributed to things other than low testosterone, so that may not be the cause, but it’s always worth investigating, so speak to your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms. 


Low T and your fertility 


 If you do have low testosterone, don’t panic – this doesn’t always mean your fertility is going to be impacted. 

The fact is, that men with low T can still in theory produce healthy sperm and some men with high testosterone will not be able to. It is not the only hormone involved in sperm production, and there’s a delicate balancing act going on in there (read more about that here) so don’t automatically assume the worst. 

The main concern with low T is that it could reduce your sex drive and your ability to maintain an erection – but there is plenty of medical help available for symptoms like that. As with everything, when it comes to your fertility, being proactive is the best course of action, so don’t be afraid to investigate your testosterone levels if you’re concerned – it will give you plenty of time to get the support you need for your journey to fatherhood. 


Photo by Dainis Graveris on SexualAlpha

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Wearing tight pants and underwear

Studies show that men who wear looser underwear have higher sperm concentration and total sperm count compared to men who wear tighter underwear. So, lose the tight clothes and wear something loose to give your testicles some air.

CONCLUSION: learn more about how heat can affect sperm quality here.


Besides higher mortality rate and various diseases, stress is associated with low sperm quality. Stress is known to be associated with lower testosterone levels and oxidative stress with both playing an essential role in producing and maintaining healthy sperm cells.

CONCLUSION: If you feel stressed, we recommend you get some help so you can have a balanced mental health. For a stress management guide, download the ExSeed app for free and start your personalized action plan today.

Physical activity

Scientific studies show that men who are physically active have better semen parameters than men who are inactive. Fertility specialists also state that regular physical activity has beneficial impact on sperm fertility parameters and such a lifestyle can enhance the fertility status of men.

Prioritizing exercise can help improve your overall health and result in healthy, fast swimming sperm cells that have good chances of fertilizing an egg.

CONCLUSION: Try incorporating exercise in your weekly schedule to you ensure exercising at least twice weekly. We recommend a combination of cardio training and strength exercise. Read more about exercise and male fertility on our blog.


Fast Food
Processed foods damage the health of sperm-producing cells and cause oxidative stress, which lead to poorer sperm quality. Heavy consumption of junk food (every week) can increase the likelihood of infertility since men who consume vast amounts of unhealthy food are at risk of having poor sperm quality. Besides harming your fertility, junk food enlarges your waistline, harms your cardiovascular system, kidneys, and more.

Eating more fruit and vegetables can increase your sperm concentration and motility. It’s important that you consume a healthy diet filled with antioxidants and that you eat vegetables every day. Foods such as apricots and red bell peppers are high in vitamin A, which improves male fertility by nurturing healthier sperm. Men who are deficient in this vitamin tend to have slow and sluggish sperm.

Sugary snacks/beverages: several times a week Excessive consumption of high sugar items can lead to oxidative stress, which negatively impacts testosterone levels and sperm motility. Sugary snacks and beverages are also highly associated with obesity and low fertility.
CONCLUSION: To boost sperm quality, stay away from fast food, processed food, and sugary snacks or beverages. You need to implement a healthy prudent diet filled with necessary superfoods needed for good sperm production. Check out our guide to Male Fertility Superfoods. For personalized guidance and support on how you can start improving your sperm health, check out the Bootcamp.


Direct heat can inhibit optimal sperm production and cause Sperm DNA damage. Sperm cells like environments that are a couple of degrees lower than body temperature. Avoid overheating from warm blankets, seat warmers, heat from your laptop, hot showers, and saunas.

Cigarette smoking

The exposure to tobacco smoke has significant negative effects on semen quality. The damage of cigarettes and nicotine of course depends on how many cigarettes you smoke per day and for how long, but even low usage (up to 10 cigarettes / day) can inhibit healthy sperm production.  

CONCLUSION: Stay as far away from cigarette smoking as possible if you care about your general health and your fertility. Read more here.

Cell phone

When you have your cell phone in your front pocket, your testicles are exposed to electromagnetic radiation, which studies have shown to damage the sperm cells. Put your phone in the back pocket of your pants or in your jacket pocket.


There is a clear association between obesity and reduced sperm quality. At least part of the reason for this is that obese men may have abnormal reproductive hormonal profiles, which can impair sperm production and lead to infertility. 

A BMI higher than 30 can lead to several processes in the body (overheating, increase in oxidative stress in the testes, sperm DNA damage, erectile dysfunction) that can have a negative impact on male fertility. This can result in problems when trying to conceive.  

CONCLUSION: BMI is one of the risk factors that influence semen quality and, for example, sperm motility.  


A beer or glass of wine now and then do not really harm sperm quality. But excess alcohol drinking (more than 20 units per week) can reduce the production of normally formed sperm needed for a successful pregnancy.

CONCLUSION: If you want to stay safe, stay under 14 units of alcohol per week. For more information on how alcohol can affect male fertility, take a look at our blog: “Alcohol and Sperm Quality”.


Studies show that women younger than 35 and men younger than 40 have a better chance of getting pregnant. Men can produce sperm cells almost through their entire life, but the sperm cell DNA is more fragile and prone to damage after the age of 40.

As men age, their testes tend to get smaller and softer resulting in a decline in sperm quality and production. These changes are partly because of an age-related decrease in testosterone level, which plays a very important role in sperm

production. Higher male age (>40 years) is not only associated with a decline in sperm production but also with increased sperm DNA fragmentation and worsened morphology (shape) and motility (movement). These negative effects make the sperm cells less qualified for egg fertilization.

CONCLUSION: with an age under 40, you shouldn’t have to worry much about age as a factor in itself. However, studies have shown a slow decline after the age of 30-35 years

and if you are above 40 years of age, your sperm quality can be affected due to increased sperm DNA damage resulting in a decrease of sperm motility and concentration. Remember that you cannot evaluate the quality of a sperm sample by just looking at it – this requires a sperm analysis.