Testosterone Deficiency Hypogonadism Symptoms

Testosterone is a hormone that plays a critical role in several aspects of sexual development in males. Testosterone is also important during adulthood. When the level of testosterone in the body is too low to perform all of its functions, the condition is called “testosterone deficiency,” or “hypogonadism.”

Causes of Hypogonadism

Male hypogonadism is usually caused by some kind of problem within the testes that leads to inadequate testosterone production and secretion. This form of hypogonadism is known as “primary hypogonadism.” The causes and symptoms of primary hypogonadism are dependent on the age of onset for the condition.

Secondary hypogonadism can affect both males and females. In healthy people, the brain signals the testes or ovaries to stimulate synthesis of testosterone and other hormones–but people with secondary hypogonadism have low testosterone levels because of inadequate signaling.

For example, one form of secondary hypogonadism, called “hypogonadotripic hypogonadism,” results from inadequate production of both the follicle-stimulating and luteinizing hormones. These hormones are secreted from the pituitary gland and enter the bloodstream, where they eventually reach the testes or ovaries and stimulate testosterone production. Like primary hypogonadism, the causes and symptoms of secondary hypogonadism depend on the age or developmental stage at which the condition begins.

In some cases, hypogonadism is the direct result a specific genetic mutation or chromosome abnormality (e.g. Kallmann syndrome and Klinefelter syndrome). Other times, hypogonadism occurs because of an injury or disease that affects the testicles or simply as a result of aging.

Symptoms of Hypogonadism in Fetal Development

Even before birth, testosterone is needed for proper development. When hypogonadism occurs in a male fetus, the baby is often born with an underdeveloped penis and testicles. If the testosterone levels are extremely low, the genitalia may be ambiguous or even look externally female.

Symptoms of Hypogonadism in Adolescence

Once boys reach adolescence, testosterone production in the testes increases significantly, and puberty begins. If testosterone levels fail to reach sufficient levels, the following symptoms are commonly observed:

  • Absence of facial and body hair
  • Failure to produce sperm
  • Growth of breast tissue
  • Impaired ability to build muscle mass
  • Lack of vocal change.

Many of these symptoms represent a failure to undergo the normal changes associated with puberty. Boys who reach adolescence without undergoing these changes may need to be tested for hypogonadism. Your doctor may prescribe testosterone supplements if levels are found to be too low.

Symptoms of Hypogonadism in Adulthood

When hypogonadism starts during adulthood, the symptoms are typically more subtle than at other life stages. Many adult men with hypogonadism may not initially seek treatment for their symptoms, which can include:

  • Depression or other mood changes
  • Erectile dysfunction (impotence)
  • Infertility
  • Trouble sleeping.

Testosterone levels naturally decline as men get older, but the degree of this decline and the results of this decline can vary greatly. In some men, the symptoms listed above may arise even though testosterone levels are within normal range for their age. Conversely, other men with testosterone levels that are below normal may not experience any of the above symptoms. Additionally, the effectiveness of hormone supplements can also vary from one individual to the next.

Testosterone levels also decline in adult women, particularly once they reach menopause. Women may find that they have less energy and less interest in sex as a result of low testosterone.

Resources

American Accreditation HealthCare Commission. (n.d.). Hypogonadotropic hypogonadism. Retrieved January 18, 2010 from the Medline Plus Web site: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000390.htm.

Center for Bioenvironmental Research at Tulane and Xavier Universities. (2009). The hormones: Androgens. Retrieved January 18, 2010 from the e.hormone Web site: http://e.hormone.tulane.edu/learning/androgens.html.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2008). Male hypogonadism. Retrieved January 18, 2010 from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/male-hypogonadism/DS00300/DSECTION=complications.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2009). Male menopause: Myth or reality? Retrieved January 18, 2010 from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/male-menopause/MC00058.

Painter, A. (n.d.). Testosterone: A major breakthrough for menopausal women. Retrieved January 18, 2010 from the Discovery Health Web site: http://health.discovery.com/centers/womens/testosterone/testosterone.html.

Sindair Intimacy Institute. (2002). Estrogen and testosterone hormones. Retrieved January 18, 2010 from the Discovery Health Web site: http://health.discovery.com/centers/sex/sexpedia/hormone.html.

UC Regents. (n.d.). Testosterone deficiency. Retrieved January 18, 2010 from the e.hormone Web site: http://e.hormone.tulane.edu/learning/androgens.html.

WebMD, LLC. (2008). Testosterone. Retrieved January 18, 2010 from the WebMD Web site: http://men.webmd.com/testosterone-15738.

WebMD, LLC. (2008). What low testosterone can mean for your health. Retrieved January 18, 2010 from the WebMD Web site: http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-low-testosterone-can-mean-your-health.