Low Free Testosterone: What Does It Mean?
It is time to find out what it means when the doctor says you have low free testosterone. Once the testes or ovaries produce testosterone (a lesser amount comes from the adrenal glands), it enters the bloodstream where it can be found in one of three different ways:
- Testosterone bound to SHBG – sex hormone-binding globulin
- Testosterone bound to albumin
- Free testosterone
When testosterone is in the “free state,” it is readily available for use in the body. SHBG bound testosterone cannot be used. Testosterone that is bound to SHBG is not available for use until it detaches from the sex hormone-binding globulin that helps transport it to its destinations. Testosterone that is bound to serum albumin is in a weakly bound state and can separate itself freely in the capillary bed making it readily available for use by the tissues. Both free and albumin-bound testosterone are considered bioavailable.
Some free testosterone also goes through a conversion process in the body where it is turned into estradiol (estrogen). If this occurs at too high a rate, the body could go into a state of estrogen dominance where higher estrogen levels overcome lower testosterone and progesterone levels.
When hormone doctors check the blood for low free testosterone levels, they are looking to see how much testosterone is available for the body to use compared to how much is bound and unavailable. At times, the bioavailable testosterone levels may also be checked. Estrogen and other hormone levels are also tested to get a clear and precise picture as to what is occurring in the body.
There is sometimes a bit of confusion to the actual low free testosterone meaning. A person could have lower levels of free testosterone yet still not receive a diagnosis of Low T. The reason for this is simple – the body has the ability to adjust to a decline in testosterone production. Only those individuals who are exhibiting symptoms associated with testosterone deficiency require any treatment for this condition.
Symptoms of Low Free Testosterone in Females
The symptoms of low free testosterone levels in females are generally the same as with males. These changes include:
- Weight gain
- Decreased bone density
- Loss of lean muscle mass
- Reduced strength
- Thinning hair or bald patches
- Poor concentration
- Impaired cognitive functions and memory
- Decreased drive, motivation, and productivity
- Irritability, mood swings, anxiety
- Lack of sleep
- Loss of libido
- Vaginal dryness
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
Because women naturally have much lower levels of testosterone in their bodies, hormone specialists look at the average amount of bioavailable testosterone. For a woman age 20 to 50 who is not on oral estrogen, the average measurement is between 0.8 and 10 ng/dL. Someone on oral estrogen will measure between 0.8 and 4 ng/dL.
Hormone replacement therapy specialists treat low free testosterone in females with custom compounded cream prepared to their physical needs. Many menopausal women have a higher risk of heart disease, dementia, obesity, and diabetes that can be reduced by receiving personalized testosterone replacement therapy.
Low Free Testosterone in Males
We know that men experience many of the same symptoms of Low T as women, with the exception being erectile dysfunction. Whether it is the loss of the morning erection, difficulty reaching arousal, trouble with endurance, or decreased feelings of pleasure and orgasm, erectile dysfunction is not fun. No man wants to experience this – or even admit it to someone else. Low free testosterone levels in males can hinder a romantic relationship, but even worse, they can lead to other serious health issues. That is why treatment is necessary when symptoms appear.
Different low free testosterone causes exist, but aging is probably the number one factor in the decline of testosterone levels. The average man between ages 30 and 40 will have a free testosterone blood reading of 8.7 to 25.1 pg/mL. This goes down to 6.8 to 21.5 during the next decade of life. By the time a male reaches the age of 60, his level of free testosterone could be as low as 6.6 to 18.1 pg/mL. Illness, injury, brain or testicular tumors, and medications may all affect testosterone levels.
The hormone specialist will order a low free testosterone blood test along with other panels to check and see if Low T or some other type of hormone deficiency is the problem. Once we know what we are dealing with, the proper treatment can then be prescribed.
If you have any questions that you would like answered, or if you are ready to arrange for your local blood test for Low T, please contact Kingsberg Medical for a free consultation with a hormone specialist today.Brian Leeber