Like the very name suggests, low testosterone refers to an abnormal fall in the level of testosterone in the human body (in case of both, males and females), the consequences of which affect the body at a cellular, organ, or body-wide (systematic) level.
Testosterone is a steroid hormone produced by the human reproductive system (testes in males and ovaries in females) in large amounts and by the adrenal glands in smaller portions. The hormone serves the following functions in the human body:
Androgenic functions: Forming and maintaining the male sex organs and promoting secondary male sex characteristics in both, males and females.
Anabolic functions: Facilitating muscle growth and bone development.
The production of testosterone is regulated by hormonal signals produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus located in the brain.
The hypothalamus produces the gonadotrophin releasing hormone (GRH), which in turn travels to the pituitary gland further stimulating this gland to release the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). These hormones aid in activating the sex organs and subsequently, regulating the testosterone levels in the blood stream.
Causes of Low Testosterone
The causes of low testosterone levels may vary from one patient to another. Yet, some common causes experienced among patients worldwide include, but may not be limited to:
- A dysfunction on the level of the hypothalamus or the pituitary gland in producing appropriate amounts of LH and FSH to stimulate testosterone production.
- An abnormal functioning on the level of testosterone producing glands (ovaries or testes).
- Changes in sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) may also account for a fall in testosterone levels in the human body.
When the disorder lies in the organs that produce testosterone, it is called a “primary hypogonadism”. In case the problem lies with the pituitary, it is called “secondary hypogonadism”. In the third case, i.e. “tertiary hypogonadism, the dysfunction is thought to be at the level of the hypothalamus.
Some common causes of primary hypogonadism include undescended testicles, injury to the scrotum sac, cancer therapy, aging, mumps orchitis, chromosomal abnormalities, ovarian failure, etc.
Secondary and tertiary hypogonadism may be caused due to tumors, hypothalamus malformations, compromised blood flow, inflammations caused by tuberculosis and sarcoidosis, HIV and AIDS, anabolic steroids, obesity, etc.
Symptoms of Low Testosterone
In males, symptoms of decreased testosterone are poor genital development, lack of sexual maturity, failure of the voice to deepen, poor growth of body hair, enlarged breasts, infertility, erectile dysfunction and osteoporosis.
Hot flashes, irritability, decreased libido, sleep disturbances, loss of body hair and osteoporosis are the symptoms of low testosterone levels in women.
Treatment for Low Testosterone
In men, the testosterone replacement therapy is generally prescribed as an intramuscular injection or as a patch or gel placed on the skin or as putty that is applied to the gums of the mouth.
In women, there are currently no preparations that are FDA approved. Women are usually prescribed small doses of the testosterone replacement therapy.
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