There's a wide array of hormones in the body. It's normal for their levels to fluctuate, but sometimes, it can be indicative of underlying issues.
Even if your fluctuations are normal, it's still a good idea to keep track of them, so if anything serious does happen, it'll be more noticeable. Many disorders don't have noticeable symptoms; regular testing will catch them as soon as they rear their tests.
Because of this, it's important to be proactive about your health. In this article, we'll discuss the signs and symptoms of hormone imbalance and 10 common lab tests regarding hormone testing for men.
Natural Levels of Male Hormones Throughout Life
The main sex hormones found in both sexes are testosterone and estradiol. While women have more estradiol than testosterone, the opposite is true for men; testosterone is the dominant hormone in males.
Considering testosterone and estradiol are essential for reproduction, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the peak age range for testosterone in males is ages 20-50. After 50, you see a steady decline in testosterone levels.
So for males, there are 3 main life stages for testosterone: puberty (where testosterone levels rise), fertile and active years (the peak range of testosterone levels), and andropause (where testosterone levels drop; this phase is similar to menopause in women).
Signs and Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance in Men
Because there are so many signs and symptoms associated with hormone imbalance in men, it's not uncommon for them to overlap with signs and symptoms of other disorders or diseases. Still, it may be useful to know these, as either way, you may have an issue that's currently unaddressed, whether it's hormone-related or not.
Some of the common signs and symptoms of hormone imbalance in men are:
- Erectile dysfunction (ED)
- Lowered sex drive
- Lower sperm count
- Less hair growth
- Less muscle mass
- Breast tenderness
- Development of breasts
Again, some other conditions may be responsible for these symptoms, so it may be a good idea to speak with your doctor about these things you're experiencing, in addition to ordering hormone tests.
Conditions That Can Cause Hormone Imbalance in Men
As we've stated above, men naturally go through some hormone imbalance when going through puberty or andropause. But while there may be imbalances initially, your body should balance itself out once again. If it doesn't, then that's when you need to seek medical help.
There are also some conditions that may cause hormone imbalance in men. The two main causes are prostate cancer and hypogonadism.
Prostate cancer is the most common kind of cancer found in American men, besides skin cancer. This disease comes with its own set of symptoms, such as trouble urinating, blood in the urine and/or semen, painful ejaculation, and pain while sitting.
Hypogonadism is the technical term for insufficient production of testosterone. Primary hypogonadism occurs when there's a problem in the testicles that prevents them from producing enough of the hormone. Secondary hypogonadism happens when there's a problem with the signal from the pituitary gland or hypothalamus.
Both primary and secondary hypogonadism can either be congenital (happens before birth, meaning it's inherited) or acquired (happens after birth, later in life). It's even possible to have both types simultaneously.
Next, we'll talk about 10 lab tests you should get if you suspect you have a hormone imbalance.
The 10 Key Hormone Lab Tests for Men
"DHEA-S" stands for "dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate." This is a steroid that's mainly produced by your adrenal cortex, although your testicles produce small amounts too. DHEA-S is responsible for helping your body develop secondary sexual characteristics when you go through puberty.
Another thing DHEA-S is useful for is the potential for conversion into testosterone and androstenedione. This can be beneficial in raising your testosterone levels if they fall below normal levels.
By ordering this test, not only can you determine if you have a hormone imbalance, but it can also tell you if there's anything wrong with your adrenal glands. For instance, if you have an excess amount of DHEA-S in your body, it may be a sign of adrenal tumors and hyperplasia.
The normal ranges for DHEA-S in men as reported by Quest in mcg/dL is as follows:
- <1 month: ≤316
- 1-6 months: ≤58
- 7-11 months: ≤26
- 1-3 years: ≤5
- 4-6 years: ≤27
- 7-9 years: ≤91
- 10-13 years: ≤138
- 14-17 years: 38-340
- 18-21 years: 24-537
- 22-30 years: 85-690
- 31-40 years: 106-464
- 41-50 years: 49-70
- 51-60 years: 38-313
- 61-70 years: 24-244
- ≥71 years: 5-253
The normal ranges for DHEA-S in women as reported by Quest in mcg/dL is as follows:
- <1 month: 15-261
- 1-6 months: ≤74
- 7-11 months: ≤26
- 1-3 years: ≤22
- 4-6 years: ≤34
- 7-9 years: ≤92
- 10-13 years: ≤148
- 14-17 years: 37-307
- 18-21 years: 51-321
- 22-30 years: 18-391
- 31-40 years: 23-266
- 41-50 years: 19-231
- 51-60 years: 8-188
- 61-70 years: 12-133
- ≥71 years: 7-177
2. Dihydrotestosterone (DHT)
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a type of sex steroid and hormone. While testosterone decreases with aging, DHT remains relatively the same all throughout your life. It's also 5 times as potent as testosterone is.
If you're losing hair, it may be related to DHT; more specifically, male-pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia) is. While there's a substantial connection between the two, scientists today aren't too sure why.
What we do know is when there are high levels of DHT, this facilitates hair loss. It's believed that DHT causes hair follicles to shrink, which then makes your hair fall out.
Test results for adult males should have between 16-79 ng/dL of DHT, as reported by Quest. While high levels are linked to male-pattern baldness, low levels can cause a decrease in libido, difficulty increasing muscle mass, and also some hair loss.
3. Estradiol (E2)
You may know estradiol as a female sex hormone, but the reality is, men have it too, just in lower levels. Estradiol is a type of estrogen, and while males start with low levels, it slowly increases as they age. This means they have an opposite trend compared to testosterone, which decreases with age.
This interesting process is thanks to the aromatase reaction. This is where testosterone is converted into estrogen.
Since aromatase is found in fat cells, the heavier you are, the more likely you'll convert your testosterone into estrogen as you age. When this happens, you may be more prone to prostate cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and gynecomastia (enlarged breasts).
For men, the normal range of estradiol is less than or equal to 39 pg/mL, as reported by Quest. If you find your levels of estradiol are a bit high, then your testosterone is most likely lower than normal too. You can try rebalancing your hormones by losing weight through a proper diet and fitness routine.
4. Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is a gonadotropin, which means it's a hormone that directly influences the amount of sperm you create. The main gonadotropins in your body are FSH and luteinizing hormone (LH).
If you've been having trouble conceiving with your partner, getting an FSH test can be beneficial. It could be that your FSH levels are too low, and you aren't producing enough sperm.
FSH tests can also help with the evaluation of men who don't have testicles or do have them but are underdeveloped.
For men, the normal range of FSH should be 1.6-8 mlU/mL, as reported by Quest. If your levels are too high, this can be due to andropause, damage to the testicles (through alcohol abuse or radiation), or tumors in the pituitary gland. If your levels are too low, then your hypothalamus or pituitary gland aren't producing hormones correctly.
5. Insulin-Like Growth Factor (IGF-1)
Insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) is also known as somatomedin C. This is a hormone that is very similar to insulin in structure; hence, the name.
Its main job is to stimulate growth in children. For adults, it has anabolic effects; this means IGF-1 promotes muscle growth and protein synthesis.
If your IGF-1 levels are abnormally high, you may be at risk for some cancers. If you had a high level during early life, then you may have acromegaly (excess of growth hormone). On the other hand, if you had a deficiency, then you may have dwarfism due to hypopituitarism (deficiency in growth hormone).
The normal range for IGF-1 levels in ng/mL, as reported by Quest are:
- 18-19.9 years: 108-548
- 20-29.9 years: 83-456
- 30-39.9 years: 63-373
- 40-49.9 years: 53-331
- 50-59.9 years: 50-317
- 60-69.9 years: 41-279
- 70-79.9 years: 34-245
- ≥80 years: 34-246
6. Luteinizing Hormone (LH)
As stated above, luteinizing hormone (LH) is one of the main gonadotropins in your body, along with FSH. It also helps with testosterone and sperm production.
Again, if you have fertility problems, one of the first tests you should do (in addition to tests on your testosterone levels) is for FSH and LH. Low LH levels can also affect your sex drive, energy, muscle mass, and weight (you'll gain weight).
The normal range of LH in men between 18 to 59 years of age is 1.5 - 9.3 mlU/mL, and for men 60 and older, the normal range is 1.6 - 15.2 mlU/mL., as reported by Quest.
Pregnenolone is a hormone we naturally produce, and it's the building block for steroid hormones (such as estrogen and testosterone). You can also find it in some dietary supplements, as some believe it has anti-aging properties.
While our pregnenolone levels naturally decrease as we age, it can drop so sharply that we experience a deficiency. This can cause symptoms such as lack of energy, loss of muscle mass, and decreased sex drive.
If you have excess pregnenolone, you may have congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). Males with CAH appear normal at birth but may go through puberty early. If you had CAH as a child and it was left untreated, you may be shorter in stature and may have infertility.
A normal pregnenolone level for men should be around 22-237 ng/dL, as reported by Quest.
You may have guessed from the name that prolactin is a hormone that stimulates breast milk production. But males have this hormone as well, as do women who aren't pregnant or breastfeeding.
If you have abnormal levels of prolactin, you may have a decreased sex drive, breast tenderness and/or growth, vision problems, and unexplained headaches. An excess of prolactin can be caused by prolactinoma (a tumor in your pituitary gland), hypothyroidism (see also Thyroid Hormones), anorexia, kidney disease, liver failure, psychotropic drugs, or disease in the hypothalamus.
The normal range for prolactin in men is 2-18 ng/mL. Just because you got an abnormal result doesn't necessarily mean something's wrong. Your levels may shoot up temporarily due to the foods you've recently eaten or stress (see also Stress Hormones).
It's possible to have levels that are too low. If your results are below 2 ng/mL, you may have issues with your pituitary gland (hypopituitarism). Thankfully, these cases don't usually call for any treatment.
9. Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin (SHBG)
Sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) is a protein you'll find in your liver. It's responsible for binding sex hormones and distributing it through your blood.
SHBG plays an important role in regulating your hormone levels since while they're bound, your cells can't utilize them. So if your SHBG levels are too high, this means you don't have enough hormones to use. On the other hand, if your levels are too low, that means you have too many.
With low levels of SHBG, you may experience an increase in muscle mass, mood swings, fluid retention, and acne if you have too much testosterone. With too much estrogen, you may experience breast growth and ED. Low SHBG levels put you at risk for obesity, hypothyroidism, and insulin resistance.
The normal level of SHBG for males in nmol/L, as reported by Quest is as follows:
- 3-9 years: 32-158
- 10-13 years: 16-20
- 14-17 years: 20-87
- 18-55 years: 10-50
- ≥55 years: 7-22
10. Testosterone (Free and Total)
Of course, this list wouldn't be complete with testosterone on it. This is the primary hormone responsible for your sperm production and sex drive.
If you've been having trouble with ED or decreased libido, a testosterone test can tell you if a low level is responsible for those issues. A low test result can also indicate you have issues with your pituitary gland or hypothalamus.
The following are the normal testosterone, free ranges for men in pg/mL, as reported by Quest:
- 1-11 years: ≤1
- 12-13 years: ≤64
- 14-17 years: 4.0-100
- 18-69 years: 46.0-224
- 70-89 years: 6.0-73
The following are the normal total testosterone ranges for men in pg/mL, as reported by Quest:
- 1-5 years: ≤5
- 6-7 years: ≤25
- 8-10 years: ≤42
- 11 years: ≤260
- 12-13 years: ≤420
- 14-17.9 years: ≤1,000
- ≥18 years: 25-1,100
The results of this test can determine if you need others in conjunction, such as FSH or LH tests.
Be Proactive About Hormone Testing
Now you know the 10 most common hormone lab tests for men. It's important for you to get a baseline reading of each of your hormone biomarkers. Not only that, but you need to get tested regularly to track any changes that lead to a hormone imbalance.
By keeping a close eye on your hormone biomarkers, as you go through life, you can detect the impact of disruptions or discomfort from changing hormone levels. Make sure that you not only get routinely tested but to also discuss the results with your doctor.
If you need help understanding your hormones, we'd love to help. We offer these key hormone lab tests as part of our selection of 1,500 lab tests, and we provide explanations on each biomarker.
You can select your lab tests, order directly online, choose a convenient patient service center near you, and review your test results typically in 1 to 2 days after your blood is collected.
Take charge of your health and get tested today at ultalabtests.com.