Testosterone Related Diseases

Hormones control many different developmental, metabolic and physiological processes in the human body. As a result, disruptions in hormone levels can have a wide range of health effects, from severe development disorders to a moderately increased risk for a certain hormone-influenced conditions. When it comes to the male sex hormone testosterone, abnormally low levels as well as abnormally high levels can cause or contribute to disease.

Testosterone Deficiency

Testosterone deficiency, also known as “hypogonadism,” is the condition in which testosterone levels are significantly below the normal range. The cause may be “primary” or “secondary.”

  • Primary hypogonadism: The testes do not produce enough testosterone because of a dysfunction within the testicles. Primary hypogonadism may be caused by a chromosome abnormality, an undescended testicle, or an injury or tumor in the testicles.
  • Secondary hypogonadism: The testes are not receiving the proper signals from the brain that would normally stimulate testosterone production. Conditions that impact the hypothalamus or the pituitary gland could lead to secondary hypogonadism, as could certain medications.

Symptoms of Testosterone Deficiency

The outcome of testosterone deficiency is largely dependent on the developmental stage of the affected individual. When testosterone levels are insufficient in utero, the genitals may not develop properly and could result in ambiguous genitalia. During adolescence, if testosterone production fails to increase to sufficient levels, puberty cannot proceed and sexual maturity is stunted.

In adults, testosterone levels will naturally decline somewhat with age. If they decline too much, however, health issues can arise. Low testosterone symptoms in grown men may include erectile dysfunction, decreased fertility, anemia and depression.

Patients with testosterone deficiency can be treated with supplements for testosterone.

Diseases Correlated with Low Testosterone

Research data indicate that in adult men, low testosterone is often linked to a medical occurrence known as “metabolic syndrome.” Metabolic syndrome refers to a group of symptoms that, when found together, greatly increase the risk for type II diabetes, heart disease and stroke. The symptoms of metabolic syndrome include:

  • High LDL cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Hypertension
  • Insulin resistance
  • Low HDL cholesterol
  • Obesity, especially in the abdomen.

Metabolic Syndrome and Testosterone - Testosterone Related Diseases

Although research is ongoing, experts do not believe that low testosterone is the cause of metabolic syndrome. Instead, one of the elements of metabolic syndrome may be lowered testosterone production.

In addition to diseases associated with metabolic syndrome, low testosterone levels are also linked to an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease, although the mechanism is still poorly understood.

Diseases Associated with High Testosterone

High testosterone levels can result from a genetic predisposition, or as the result of testosterone supplement abuse. In young boys, testosterone levels that are abnormally high can lead to early onset of puberty. In women, higher than normal testosterone levels can cause masculinization.

In both sexes, alopecia, or male pattern baldness, is influenced by testosterone. Men and women with higher than average testosterone levels for their respective gender have an increased risk of developing alopecia.

Resources

Center for Bioenvironmental Research at Tulane and Xavier Universities. (2009). The hormones: Androgen.s Retrieved January 14, 2010 from the e.hormone Web site: http://e.hormone.tulane.edu/learning/androgens.html.

Margo, K. (2006). Testosterone treatments: Why, when and how? Retrieved January 14, 2010 from the American Academy of Family Physicians Web site: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2006/0501/p1591.html.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2008). Hypogonadism. Retrieved January 14, 2010 from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/male-hypogonadism/DS00300/DSECTION=complications.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2008). Metabolic syndrome. Retrieved January 14, 2010 from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/metabolic syndrome/DS00522.

MediLexicon International Ltd. (2004). Falling testosterone – Alzheimer’s later on in life – link? Retrieved January 14, 2010 from the Medical News Today Web site: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/5553.php.

State of Victoria. (2009). Androgen deficiency in men. Retrieved January 14, 2010, from the Better Health Channel Web site: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Androgen_deficiency.

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