Before the era of modern convenience, testosterone testing was once something that could only be done by your doctor. Now in the age of the internet, at-home testosterone tests are available at the click of a button and can be delivered right to your door. The question is, are you really getting what you’re paying for?
How Much Testosterone Is Normal?
The normal range for testosterone is a bit like a sliding scale for aging men. Testosterone concentrations that are considered normal for a teenager are incredibly high for a man in their late 50’s. The opposite is true, too. Levels typical of middle-aged men can cause side effects and even delay puberty in younger men.
Most men’s levels fall somewhere between 270-1200 ng/dL. Since the range is so broad, experts have a hard time defining what constitutes a “normal” level. According to the guidelines laid out by the American Urological Association, levels below 300 ng/dL are indicative of low T; however, some medical professionals argue that levels must be under 200 ng/dL to be considered true hypogonadism.
On the other hand, levels above 1,200 ng/dl can also be problematic and cause serious complications if untreated. Aggression, infertility, testicular shrinkage, swelling, and enlarged prostate are symptoms of extraordinarily high T levels, a condition known as hypergonadism.
For some doctors, below-average T levels aren’t enough to warrant a diagnosis since many men with low levels live symptom-free for years. Men more sensitive to hormone changes can experience a wide range of symptoms and may inquire about treatment even before their levels drop below 300ng/dL.
Men over 30 who are experiencing unexplained loss of libido, fatigue, and muscle weakness should consider having their levels tested, since these are the most common symptoms of low T. Other signs of a T deficiency include weight gain, dry or thinning skin, insomnia, and hot flashes. For many with adult-onset low T, testosterone replacement therapy is an effective way to manage levels and provide symptomatic relief.
Testing Testosterone At Home
Saliva, urine, and hair testing kits have been available for many years, allowing consumers to check everything from ovulation times to the presence of drugs in the comfort of their homes. One of the latest at-home test kits to hit the market are testosterone testing kits.
At-home testosterone testing kits are divided into two types: blood tests and saliva tests. The saliva testing kits include a cotton swab or a small vile to collect your sample, whereas those that require blood specimens contain lancets and either an absorbent sheet of paper or a vile. Once the sample’s obtained, customers are instructed to mail it to a designated address where it is then tested by a lab.
These kits range from about $50 to $150 and are available from many online stores and major retailers. While these tests are undoubtedly convenient and easy to use, they are often misleading and inaccurate.
Testosterone comes in two forms: bound T (which is unusable by the body) and bioavailable T. These kits measure both types of testosterone to find the total T level of the consumer. The problem with measuring total T levels is it’s an inadequate representation of the amount of T available to your body tissues. These tests may lead men to believe their T levels are completely normal, when, in fact, their bioavailable T is out-of-range.
Many experts question the reliability of saliva testing since it has such a large margin of error. Smoking or consuming food and drink before collecting your saliva can cause invalid results. Even if the candidate follows the instructions on the kit perfectly, the results are still far from precise.
Getting Medically Supervised Testosterone Tests
While mail-in blood tests are considered more exact than saliva testing kits, they still aren’t as credible as one performed by a medical professional. Doctor-ordered tests follow a much more rigid protocol, and while the idea is the same, the results from medically-supervised tests are more reliable.
The Urology Care Foundation recommends testosterone testing be performed early in the morning and no later than 12 pm since this is when levels are at their peak. Physicians will normally request at least two blood-serum tests to determine your average range.
Besides the rigorous standards, tests done in a clinical setting are more thorough and can distinguish levels of free T from total T. Having detailed results allows for a more informed diagnosis and better-suited treatment plan.
The Ameican Urological Association recommends that doctors check levels of several other hormones in addition to T levels. Measuring levels of luteinizing hormone, prolactin, or estradiol can rule out co-existing conditions and discover if androgen receptors are converting testosterone into other hormones. A qualified doctor will also consider a patient’s medical history and lifestyle to make sure the results aren’t a temporary dip in T levels.
Medical professionals can explain results and answer questions in a way that an email or customer service rep can’t. A health care provider can also walk you through which treatment options may be right for you.
We Can Help
If you’ve made it this far, it’s probably safe to say you or a loved one have concerns about testosterone deficiency. You’re not alone either. Almost 40% of men over 45 have low levels–a statistic that only rises with older age groups.
Renew Vitality treatment centers cover all the bases from diagnostic testing and treatment to follow up care for men with low T. Our doctors work diligently to find and treat the cause of symptoms and closely monitor levels to make sure patients are on the right track. Besides providing innovative treatments like TRT, our providers work to educate the patient’s on their condition and guide them through the steps to boost levels naturally.
Renew Vitality is regarded as an authority on men’s health and is one of the highest-rated hormone therapy centers in the US. Our clinics are tailored to the aging male and have several treatment options to help combat the symptoms of hormone deficiency. Contact us to see if hormone therapy is right for you.
This content was reviewed by Dr. Gary Kawesch. Dr. Kawesch graduated from Yale University, getting his degree in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry. He then got his medical degree at the UCLA School of Medicine. He completed his internship in internal medicine at USC’s Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, and his ophthalmology residency at the UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute. For over 18 years, Dr. Kawesch was one of the foremost ophthalmic surgeons in the US and has consulted with and was a team doctor for seven professional sports teams in California. He continues to work with the Oakland Raiders. He trained with the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine and helps men increase their vitality, lifespan and overall healthspan.