Is Low Testosterone Genetic?
Posted: January 7, 2022
Low testosterone is a common condition many men experience. This hormone deficiency can cause many life-altering symptoms and typically requires lifetime treatment with testosterone replacement therapy. While every man experiences a natural decline in testosterone levels, some men may have a steeper decrease in testosterone in the blood, which can affect your health in many ways. One question many people ask is whether low testosterone, or hypogonadism, is genetic. There is some evidence to suggest that low testosterone may be hereditary.
What is Low Testosterone?
Before we get into the genetics and hereditary elements of low T, it’s important to understand what it is. After all, testosterone levels start to decline for most men around age 30, decreasing on average about 1% each year. So, what exactly does low testosterone mean?
Generally speaking, low testosterone is where you have lower levels of the hormone testosterone than is average for your age. Basically, some men have much lower concentrations of testosterone in their body. This often leads to experiencing certain symptoms and even increased risk for some health conditions, which we’ll discuss in the next section. However, it’s essential to understand that low T can affect your health and overall well-being.
Low testosterone is generally defined as having less than 300 nanograms of testosterone per deciliter of blood. Therefore, diagnosing hypogonadism involves a simple blood test to look at your hormone levels. However, keep in mind that testosterone levels can fluctuate day to day or hour to hour. Generally this means we will need to take a second blood draw to confirm the testosterone deficiency diagnosis.
Low testosterone is a chronic condition, which means you will likely need treatment for life after a hypogonadism diagnosis. Essentially, your body doesn’t produce enough testosterone to keep your levels within healthy ranges. Therefore, treatment typically involves supplementing your natural testosterone through testosterone injections. These medications boost testosterone in your blood to help counteract the effects of low T. However, keep in mind that not every man needs testosterone replacement therapy for hypogonadism. Many experts recommend treatment only if you have lower testosterone levels and you experience symptoms of hypogonadism.
Low testosterone can cause many different symptoms. Therefore, be on the lookout for these common signs of a testosterone deficiency:
- Unexplained fatigue
- Low sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction
- Unexplained weight gain
- Increased body fat
- Decreased muscle mass
- Muscle weakness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Less beard and body hair growth
In addition to these often serious and life-changing symptoms, low testosterone can also increase your risk for some other health conditions. For example, hypogonadism may increase the risk for obesity, diabetes, and low bone density (osteoporosis). You may also have a higher risk for heart disease and high blood pressure if you have low testosterone. Therefore, if you think you have hypogonadism, it’s important to address it right away with one of our treatment providers. Untreated low T can cause serious issues with your health and overall quality of life.
Low T May be Genetic
There may be many causes of low testosterone. Experts are still exploring the ins and outs of hypogonadism and its causes. However, we do know that some factors increase your risk for hypogonadism. For instance, common health conditions like obesity and diabetes may be linked to low testosterone levels. If you’re a smoker, you also have an increased risk for low T. However, many have wondered whether hypogonadism is hereditary. With more research into genes, more scientists are studying the possible connection. Some studies suggest that genetics can also play a role in testosterone levels.
Link Between SHBG Gene and Low Testosterone
One gene that may be linked to low testosterone is the SHBG gene. This gene is responsible for how much SHBG your body produces. Variations in this gene can make you more susceptible to hypogonadism. SHBG stands for sex hormone binding globulin. This is a type of protein that binds to hormones in your body, particularly testosterone. SHBG is made in your liver and carries testosterone throughout the blood. When testosterone is bound to SHBG, it’s not available to the cells and tissues in your body to use.
The important thing to understand about testosterone levels is that there is a certain amount of “free” testosterone and a certain amount of total testosterone in your blood. Free testosterone not bound to SHBG accounts for only about 1% to 2% of total testosterone for most men. This testosterone is available for receptors, cells, and tissues in your body to use for things like red blood cell production or building muscle mass. The rest of the testosterone is typically bound to the SHBG proteins or albumin proteins in your blood, accounting for total testosterone numbers. When your body doesn’t have enough free testosterone in the blood available to use, you can experience symptoms of low testosterone.
One 2011 study looked at 14,000 men and looked at differences in the SHBG gene. Some of these differences seem to increase the risk for developing low testosterone. In fact, having three or more of certain genetic variations in the SHBG gene can cause a 6.5 fold increase in the risk for hypogonadism. Therefore, some genetic factors in the SHBG gene can increase the risk for low testosterone.
Other Potential Genetic Factors
There may be other genetic factors at play for low testosterone. For instance, one 2021 study of genes and low testosterone saw similar associations between changes in the SHBG gene and hypogonadism, but also found a connection between low testosterone and variations in several protein coding genes as well. Some studies have also noticed a link between certain gene markers on the X chromosome and low T levels. Genetic factors can also contribute to common risk factors for low testosterone, like obesity and diabetes. Therefore, testosterone levels may be influenced by both genetics and by environmental factors.
The Good News: Testosterone Replacement Therapy Can Help
Fortunately, there are treatment solutions available for men with low testosterone. Testosterone replacement therapy is a common treatment for testosterone deficiency. This treatment uses bioidentical testosterone to increase the amount of the hormone in your blood. Testosterone therapy may help counteract many of the effects of low testosterone, including your symptoms and some of the health risks of untreated low T. Therefore, if you believe you may be suffering from testosterone deficiency, talk to our treatment providers about diagnosis and treatment.
At Low T Center, we offer many treatment options for low testosterone to suit your lifestyle. Our team offers in-office appointments for testosterone injections. We have worked to streamline the healthcare process to ensure injection appointments are quick and convenient at our locations across the nation. However, if this treatment option doesn’t work for you, you may be able to start a self-injection testosterone treatment plan. With this option, we send necessary supplies to your home and monitor your treatment program and health through our state-of-the-art telehealth app. Our treatment providers are here to help you feel like your best self through customized treatment plans and programs.
Complete Men’s Health Care Solutions at Low T Center
When you need affordable, convenient, and quality health care, our team is here for you. We streamline the healthcare process to make it easier to address your health as a whole. Our treatment providers offer diagnosis, treatment, and health management solutions for a wide range of common health conditions, including low testosterone, sleep apnea, and erectile dysfunction. Our goal is to help you feel your best through customized care. Make an appointment today to take the first step toward better health.
Disclaimer: This article is made available for general, entertainment and educational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of Low T Center. You should always seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.