Recently, a panel with cooperation from international andrology and urology societies, published specific recommendations with regard to the diagnosis of Late-onset Hypogonadism (Nieschlag et al 2005). These are summarized in the following text. It is advised that at least two serum testosterone measurements, taken before 11 am on different mornings, are necessary to confirm the diagnosis. The second sample should also include measurement of gonadotrophin and prolactin levels, which may indicate the need for further investigations for pituitary disease. Patients with serum total testosterone consistently below 8 nmol/l invariably demonstrate the clinical syndrome of hypogonadism and are likely to benefit from treatment. Patients with serum total testosterone in the range 8–12 nmol/l often have symptoms attributable to hypogonadism and it may be decided to offer either a clinical trial of testosterone treatment or to make further efforts to define serum bioavailable or free testosterone and then reconsider treatment. Patients with serum total testosterone persistently above 12 nmol/l do not have hypogonadism and symptoms are likely to be due to other disease states or ageing per se so testosterone treatment is not indicated.
The natural production of DHEA is also age-dependent. Prior to puberty, the body produces very little DHEA. Production of this prohormone peaks during your late 20’s or early 30’s. With age, DHEA production begins to decline. The adrenal glands also manufacture the stress hormone cortisol, which is in direct competition with DHEA for production because they use the same hormonal substrate known as pregnenolone. Chronic stress basically causes excessive cortisol levels and impairs DHEA production, which is why stress is another factor for low testosterone levels.
A blood test is the only way to diagnose a low testosterone level or a reduction in the bioavailability of testosterone. Some men have a lower than normal testosterone level without signs or symptoms. For most men, no treatment is needed. But for some others, very low testosterone levels lead to a condition in which bones become weak and brittle (osteoporosis). For others, low testosterone might cause changes in sexual function, sleep patterns, emotions and the body.
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Testosterone levels generally peak during adolescence and early adulthood. As you get older, your testosterone level gradually declines — typically about 1 percent a year after age 30 or 40. It is important to determine in older men if a low testosterone level is simply due to the decline of normal aging or if it is due to a disease (hypogonadism).