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Myths and Facts About Low Testosterone (Low T) in Men

If you watch sports, you’ve probably seen advertisements for low testosterone or low T supplements. The ads promise to boost your sex drive, increase muscle tone and end “male menopause.” 

However, the truth about low T, a testosterone deficiency, is more complex than the ads make it seem. 

Low T, also known as hypogonadism, is an actual medical concern and its treatment through supplements isn’t just a shortcut to getting better gains in a gym or the bedroom

And there are many misconceptions and misinformation that continue to run rampant, leading to confusion and missed opportunities for effective treatment. 

Read on to better understand what having low levels of testosterone means, symptoms to watch out for and clarity about some common myths.

Understanding low testosterone

Testosterone, a sex hormone made in the testicles, plays a vital role in various bodily functions. 

“During puberty, it helps develop features like body and facial hair, a deeper voice and muscle strength,” said Randy Gelow, MD, a family medicine physician with Banner Health. “It helps provide energy and sexual libido (desire), bone density and overall well-being.”

When your testosterone is low, it means the testicles do not produce an adequate amount of testosterone. When total testosterone levels fall below normal (below 300 nanograms per deciliter), it can result in physical, emotional and sexual symptoms.

These symptoms could include:

Debunking myths about low testosterone

Even though low T affects nearly five million people in the United States, the average person doesn’t know much about it – other than what they may hear from ads.

Dr. Gelow helps debunk several myths and misconceptions surrounding low testosterone.

Myth: Low testosterone only affects older men.

Fact: While it’s true that testosterone levels are at their highest around puberty and gradually decline beginning in your 30s and 40s, lower levels can affect people of all ages. 

“Testosterone over time does dwindle in value, but it can affect people of all ages, including younger individuals,” Dr. Gelow said. “Most people don’t have any issues with low testosterone at lower levels because they have grown used to it as they have grown older.”

Lifestyle factors like drinking alcohol and being overweight, medication or genetic factors can contribute to low testosterone levels. Diabetes, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), kidney disease/renal deficiency, testicle injuries and pituitary gland problems can also lower testosterone levels.

Myth: Erectile dysfunction and low libido are the primary symptoms of low T.

Fact: Symptoms like decreased sex drive and sexual dysfunction can be related to low T, but other factors can also cause these symptoms. 

“There are many metabolic processes involved in many of the symptoms, and a comprehensive exam by your health care provider to determine the cause of the symptoms is warranted,” Dr. Gelow said.

Other factors affecting your ability to sustain an erection and a lower libido include stress, lack of sleep, depression and underlying health conditions. 

Myth: Low testosterone is a natural part of aging and does not require treatment.

Fact: This is true and false.

“Many medical societies don’t recommend treatment of age-related low testosterone,” Dr. Gelow said. “But if symptoms are significant or are affecting you negatively and you have low T, we may consider treatment.”

Appropriate treatment can help alleviate symptoms and improve well-being.

Myth: Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) is a magic solution for all symptoms. 

Fact: Unfortunately, TRT is not a cure-all. 

“While TRT can help treat symptoms related to low testosterone, it can worsen other issues like an enlarged prostate and cause other side effects,” Dr. Gelow said. 

Testosterone therapies should be carefully prescribed and monitored by your health care provider. It may not be suitable or necessary for every person, and potential risks and benefits must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. 

Myth: Testosterone supplements are safe and effective. 

Fact: It may be easy to get your hands on over-the-counter (OTC) testosterone supplements, also known as testosterone boosters, but these unfounded treatments should be avoided. 

“OTC supplements are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and often don’t have any active ingredients in them,” Dr. Gelow said. “They are not recommended and are often completely ineffective.”

These supplements may also carry potential risks and side effects. It’s important to talk to your health care provider before using any supplement.

Myth: Testosterone replacement therapy increases your risk for heart disease and cancer.

Fact: These are a serious concern for many people but no clear evidence supports that TRT increases your risk for heart disease and cancer

However, TRT is not without some risks. Side effects of taking TRT may include acne, breast swelling or soreness and rash. And it may also worsen certain medical conditions.

“At this time, I counsel all my patients about these possible side effects as well as others, like increased irritability, prostate enlargement and related symptoms, increased blood counts and possible blood clots,” Dr. Gelow said.

If you take TRT, your provider will monitor you regularly with blood tests for testosterone levels, red blood cell count, prostate issues and prostate cancer.


Low testosterone, or hypogonadism, is a condition that can significantly impact your physical, emotional and sexual well-being. But health experts say it is sometimes part of the aging process. 

However, if you suspect you may be experiencing symptoms of low testosterone, consult with your health care provider. Your symptoms could be caused by low T or other health problems. 

Your provider can review your medical history and perform a physical exam and blood test to measure your levels. They can help decide whether you are a candidate for TRT, or other treatment options based on your unique situation.

To find a Banner Health specialist who can work with you on managing your low testosterone near you, visit

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