Surprisingly little is known about the long-term health effects of low testosterone. Low testosterone is associated with several chronic medical conditions, including obesity, diabetes, depression, and possibly cardiovascular disease. However, “It’s not clear at all that [low testosterone] causes these conditions,” says Karen Herbst, MD, PhD, an endocrinologist with the University of California, San Diego.
The same processes that lead to medical illness -- causing diabetes and high blood pressure, for example -- could potentially also be causes of low testosterone, says Andre Araujo, PhD, an epidemiologist and researcher on testosterone deficiency. “It’s possible that low testosterone levels serve as a marker of health decline in general,” he says.
Testosterone builds bone, and low testosterone can lead to thinning of the bones, called osteoporosis. There is no proof that testosterone therapy reduces fracture risk. Still, most physicians would treat a man with low bone density with testosterone, Herbst says.
Men with symptoms of low testosterone can have significant impairment in quality of life. Current medical thinking is “these men should be treated with testosterone replacement,” Herbst says.
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