Testosterone Deficiency

Testosterone deficiency, also known as male hypogonadism, is characterized by insufficient testosterone levels. The amount of testosterone that is required in the body depends on a person’s age, gender, and many other, more complex factors. For this reason, the point at which low testosterone levels result in noticeable symptoms can vary from one person to the next.

About Testosterone

Testosterone is a hormone that’s produced throughout development and adulthood in both males and females. When boys reach adolescence, their testosterone levels escalate rapidly, due to increased production in the testes. This increase in testosterone sets off the following changes in the body:

  • Height increases
  • Facial hair starts to grow
  • Muscle mass increases
  • Sperm production begins and libido develops
  • Voice becomes deeper.

Primary Hypogonadism - Testosterone Deficiency

These changes are the chief characteristics of physical and sexual maturation in men, and they are all testosterone-dependent.

Male Testosterone Deficiency

Testosterone deficiency can affect males differently depending on the stage of life they’re in:

  • Fetal stage: If testosterone levels are insufficient during growth of the fetus, the male genitals may not develop properly and the baby could be born with ambiguous genitalia.
  • Adolescence: If testosterone levels do not increase as they normally do during in the early years of adolescence, then boys do not undergo the physical and mental changes associated with puberty.
  • Adulthood: Although testosterone levels gradually drop during adulthood as a normal part of the aging process, some men experience low testosterone symptoms. These can include erectile dysfunction, insomnia, decreased fertility, anemia and depression. Adult men with low testosterone may also find themselves losing muscle mass and accumulating fat around the waistline.

Insufficient testosterone during fetal development and adolescence can often be treated with testosterone replacement therapy using synthetic testosterone. In adult men, some of the symptoms of low testosterone can be alleviated with testosterone therapy, but the degree of effectiveness varies. A healthy lifestyle that includes a nutritious diet and ample exercise can also help with some of these symptoms, but these measures do not increase testosterone production.

Testosterone Deficiency in Women

During menopause, women experience a significant and sudden decline in their levels of testosterone and other hormones. In some women, lowered testosterone levels may bring on symptoms such as:

  • Decreased muscle tone
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Low energy level (compared to pre-menopause)
  • Low sex drive and decreased genital sensitivity.

Menopausal and post-menopausal women experiencing these symptoms may benefit from hormone replacement therapy that includes testosterone or other androgens. Hormone replacement therapy, however, is not without side effects. Physicians generally take into account the severity of symptoms as well as other risk factors when prescribing hormone therapy for patients.

Resources

Center for Bioenvironmental Research at Tulane and Xavier Universities. (2009). The hormones: Androgens. Retrieved January 17, 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 17, 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 14, 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 17, 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 14, 2010 from the Discovery Health Web site: http://health.discovery.com/centers/sex/sexpedia/hormone.html.

UC Regents. (n.d.). Testosterone deficiency. Retrieved January 14, 2010 from the e.hormone Web site: http://e.hormone.tulane.edu/learning/androgens.html.

WebMD, LLC. (2008). Testosterone. Retrieved January 14, 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 14, 2010 from the WebMD Web site: http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-low-testosterone-can-mean-your-health.