Published On By Dimitar Marinov [MD, PhD]

Testosterone Test

Testosterone is a natural hormone synthesized in the male testicles. It is also produced in small quantities in the ovaries and adrenal glands of females. It could help support healthy reproductive function, muscle mass development, sexual function, and libido.

Some tests like Total or Free testosterone tests could help determine whether the testosterone levels are within the normal range.

Deviations from the normal ranges may cause health concerns like hormonal imbalance, infertility, erectile dysfunction, or low sex drive.

This article explores the types of testosterone tests, how they work, and the reasons you should get your testosterone levels checked. It also mentions healthy testosterone ranges, the symptoms of low testosterone, and how to address it.

What Is Testosterone?

Testosterone could help develop primary male sex characteristics, such as muscle mass, body hair, voice deepening, and bone density. In males, testosterone could also help control sperm synthesis, red blood cell production, and sex drive.

Female bodies also produce smaller amounts of testosterone in their adrenal glands and ovaries which are important for sexual health and muscle strength. The testosterone gets converted into estradiol, a female sex hormone that supports hormone regulation, bone health, fertility, and breast development.

Testosterone also influences other health aspects, including mood, energy levels, and cognitive function. Imbalances in testosterone levels might cause health concerns, such as infertility, erectile dysfunction in men, and irregular menstrual cycles in women.

Your body’s natural testosterone production peaks during puberty and early adulthood, gradually decreasing around the age of 30. The hormone is vital for both men and women, as it impacts their physical and mental health.

Low testosterone levels might lead to symptoms like decreased sex drive, reduced energy levels, and emotional effects like depression.

What Is a Testosterone Test?

A testosterone test is a diagnostic procedure that measures the existing levels of the testosterone hormone in the body. Maintaining testosterone levels within a standard (normal) range is vital for optimal body function.

During a testosterone test, healthcare professionals analyze blood samples to determine the serum blood concentration of testosterone. It may help monitor conditions related to abnormal testosterone levels, like hypogonadism (low testosterone), hypergonadism (high testosterone), or infertility.

Often associated with men, testosterone tests are also relevant for women. Testosterone tests may help diagnose conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), irregular menstrual cycles, and low libido in women.

The results of a testosterone test may help doctors understand the cause of symptoms like fatigue, low libido, mood changes, etc. Abnormal results may prompt further testing or treatment.

How Do Testosterone Tests Work?

Testosterone tests usually involve taking a blood sample, either at a lab or using an at-home test kit. The blood sample is then mailed for analysis, and the results are typically ready within a few days.

For measuring testosterone levels in males under 45 years, the testosterone tests are scheduled in the morning when T levels are supposedly highest. Sometimes, retesting becomes necessary to confirm initial measurements.

Saliva tests may be a suitable substitute if you are facing issues with needles or blood samples. However, the results of saliva tests may be less accurate than blood tests. Additional tests like serum tests might be needed to ensure the accuracy of saliva tests.

Types Of Testosterone Test

  1. Total Testosterone Test

    A Total Testosterone Test may determine the total amount of testosterone circulating in the bloodstream. It includes testosterone that binds to proteins like albumin and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) and testosterone that is free and unbound.

    During the test, a healthcare provider collects a blood sample, typically in the morning when T levels are at their peak. The procedure is quick, relatively painless, and carries minimal risks. It also provides an accurate representation of your hormonal status.

    Interpreting the results of the Total Testosterone Test requires consideration of age and gender-specific reference ranges. Abnormal levels may suggest hormonal imbalances or other health concerns, prompting further evaluation and testing.

    Results from the Total Testosterone Test may help doctors identify potential underlying health issues like hypogonadism, infertility, or certain endocrine disorders.

  2. Bioavailable Testosterone Test

    The Bioavailable Testosterone Test assesses levels of two forms of testosterone:

    • Free testosterone that is readily available for use by the body.
    • Testosterone is loosely bound to albumin (a blood protein).

    It may be particularly useful in situations where total testosterone levels appear normal but symptoms of low testosterone are present. Bioavailable Testosterone Test may help check for hypogonadism (low testosterone), especially in cases where SHBG levels may be altered.

  3. Free Testosterone Test

    Unlike total testosterone tests that measure both bound and unbound forms, the free testosterone test focuses solely on the unbound form. It may represent the active form of testosterone that the body may use for muscle growth, mood regulation, sexual function, etc.

    Low levels of free testosterone may indicate a deficiency even if total testosterone levels are normal. It might help check for conditions related to low testosterone, such as hypogonadism, infertility, or other endocrine disorders. Unfortunately, most commonly used tests that directly measure free T are less accurate, compared to indirect methods of measuring total T and SHBG that estimate free T via a formula.

Reasons To Get Testosterone Test

Here are some reasons as to why you should get your testosterone levels checked:

  • Diagnosing Hypogonadism: It is characterized by low testosterone levels and may cause symptoms like fatigue, decreased libido, and muscle loss. Getting a testosterone test may help the doctor confirm its diagnosis and tailor management strategies.
  • Evaluating Sexual Dysfunction: If you experience erectile dysfunction, low libido, or other sexual health issues, a testosterone test may help determine if low hormone levels are a contributing factor.
  • Investigating Delayed or Early Puberty: In adolescents, abnormal testosterone levels may indicate delayed or early puberty. Testosterone tests may help confirm such issues and promote further investigation.
  • Assessing Fertility Issues: Testosterone plays a vital role in sperm production and reproductive function of both men and women. Testing may help identify any hormonal imbalances that could affect fertility.
  • Evaluating Bone Health: Low testosterone levels might contribute to osteoporosis or decreased bone mineral density. Testing may help assess such risks and guide preventive measures or treatment.

Symptoms of Low Testosterone

Low testosterone levels may cause multiple symptoms affecting both physical and mental well-being. Some common signs include decreased sex drive, erectile dysfunction, reduced muscle mass, fatigue, and increased body fat.

  1. Symptoms in Males

    Symptoms that could indicate low testosterone levels in males may include:

    • Lower Sex Drive and Energy Levels: Decreased libido and overall energy may be early signs of low testosterone in men.
    • Erectile Dysfunction (ED): Difficulties in achieving or maintaining an erection could be linked to low testosterone levels.
    • Less Hair Growth: Men might encounter thinning of facial and body hair as a symptom of low testosterone.
    • Weight Gain: Hormonal imbalances, including low testosterone, might contribute to unexplained weight gain in men.
    • Difficulty Concentrating: Low T levels might contribute to reduced mental clarity, memory problems, or decreased focus in males.
    • Reduced Semen Volume: Reduced testosterone levels might negatively impact male sexual function, leading to reduced ejaculate volume and low sperm count.
    • Decreased Bone Density: Low T levels might lead to bone loss, potentially increasing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
    • Hot Flashes: Low testosterone levels might cause some women to experience sudden feelings of warmth, often accompanied by flushing or sweating of their skin.
    • Gynecomastia: Some men with low testosterone levels might notice abnormal swelling in their chest tissues, which may be tender or painful. The condition is termed gynecomastia.
  2. Symptoms in Females

    • Fatigue: Women may experience persistent tiredness or lack of energy, even after adequate rest.
    • Reduced Sexual Desire: Low T levels may decrease libido and arousal in women, possibly reducing their desire to engage in sexual intimacy.
    • Mood Changes: Women might encounter frequent mood swings, irritability, or even depression due to low testosterone levels.
    • Loss of Strength: Low T levels might reduce muscle strength and cause muscle weakness in women.
    • Irregular Menstrual Cycle: Reduced testosterone may disrupt estrogen and testosterone balance, potentially causing menstrual cycle irregularities.
    • Hair Thinning or Balding: Low T levels may cause thinning of hair on the scalp or other body areas where it is normally present.
    • Vaginal Dryness: Women might experience dryness or discomfort in their vaginal area, leading to pain during intercourse.
    • Changes in Breast Size: Women with low testosterone might experience a reduction in their breast size or firmness.

Testosterone Ranges

Testosterone levels might vary between people based on factors like their age, gender, and overall health.

Having a reference (standard) testosterone range is vital in understanding hormonal health and diagnosing potential imbalances.

Here are the normal testosterone ranges for both males and females based on data from The University of Iowa, USA:

  • For Men: In males, normal total testosterone levels typically range from 249 to 836 ng/dL for ages 19-49 and from 193-740 ng/dL for those aged 50 and above.
  • For Women: For females, normal total testosterone levels fall within the range of 8 to 48 ng/dL for ages 19-49 and from 2-41 ng/dL for women aged 50 and older.

When measuring ranges, you should consider both the total testosterone concentration and the free testosterone levels. Doing so might help you give an accurate measure of whether you fall within your normal testosterone range.

Related:

What Are Normal Testosterone Levels for Men?

Normal testosterone levels for males typically range between 300-1,000 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) or 10-35 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L) based on data from MedLine.

Deviations from these normal testosterone ranges may lead to health concerns. Some of these may include decreased libido, muscle weakness, mood changes, infertility, or erectile dysfunction.

When To Talk With a Doctor?

Any fluctuations from your normal testosterone ranges may be a sign of hormonal imbalance or other health conditions. If you have taken an at-home testosterone test and the results indicate levels outside the standard range, consult a doctor for further guidance.

Symptoms Low Testosterone Levels High Testosterone Levels
Men Fatigue, hair loss, low sex drive Acne, excess hair, baldness
Women Fertility issues, osteoporosis Menstrual irregularities
General Depression, irritability, reduced sex drive Aggression, mood swings, acne

Your doctor might recommend additional tests to determine the underlying causes of your hormone imbalance. They might also conduct a physical examination to look for signs indicative of low or high testosterone levels.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can Stress Affect Testosterone Levels?
    Elevated stress levels may trigger the release of cortisol (the body’s stress hormone), which might suppress healthy testosterone production. Chronic stress may lead to long-term hormonal imbalances, impacting your overall health and well-being.
  2. How Does Age Impact Testosterone Levels?
    Men and women face a gradual decline in their testosterone levels with age, usually after 30 years of age. Puberty and early adulthood see peak testosterone levels, with a yearly decrease after that. Symptoms of low testosterone, like muscle weakness, fatigue, or low libido, may manifest with age-related changes.
  3. Can Diet and Exercise Influence Testosterone?
    Consuming a diet abundant in essential nutrients like vitamin D and zinc, along with regular physical activity, may positively impact testosterone production. Lifestyle modifications may also help maintain hormonal balance.
  4. What Are the Risks of Having High Testosterone Levels?
    High testosterone levels might lead to an increased risk of heart disease, liver problems, and mood swings. Excessive T levels may also contribute to acne, hair loss, and the tendency for aggressive behaviors. Thus, monitoring and managing high testosterone is vital to support overall health.
  5. Are There Natural Ways to Boost Testosterone?
    Natural ways to boost testosterone may include regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, ensuring adequate sleep, managing stress, and consuming a zinc-rich diet. You may consult a dietitian or a doctor for personalized guidance.

Conclusion

Having excessively high testosterone levels or even low testosterone could negatively impact your reproductive health, energy levels, and overall health. Therefore, it becomes necessary to keep periodic checks on your testosterone levels through serum testosterone tests.

Getting your total, free, or bioavailable testosterone levels checked may provide insights into the active hormone levels in your body. It may help your doctor check for hypogonadism (low testosterone), evaluate fertility issues, or monitor hormone replacement therapy.

You may either get tested at a lab with a doctor’s order or try a home testosterone test to check your testosterone levels. Symptoms like hair loss, excess body hair, mood changes, or reduced sex drive could mean your testosterone level is too high or too low.

Disclaimer
  • This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.
  • It is not recommended to disregard/delay seeking professional medical advice or treatment because of what you read or accessed through this article.
  • The results may vary from individual to individual.
  • Consult your doctor for any underlying medical conditions or if you are on any prescribed medicines before following health tips or instructions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *