Male hypogonadism is a diminished hormonal or reproductive functioning. It basically means your body does not produce enough testosterone and therefore your ability to produce sperm is impaired. This can come on in the womb, or in puberty or can be a result of an injury or infection later in life. You may have heard it called gonad deficiency or andropause or low serum testosterone and can also be a natural result of growing older.
There is primary or secondary hypogonadism.
Primary hypogonadism is a result of a problem with the testes themselves, as a result of childhood diseases, such as the mumps, or if before birth the testes did not drop, known as undescended testicles. Injury to the testes can also cause primary hypogonadism.
Secondary hypogonadism indicates a problem with the hypothalamus or the pituitary gland, both of which are housed in the brain. This means that the brain is not sending appropriate signals to your testicles to produce sperm. This might be a result of normal aging but could equally be a result of hormonal dysfunction and therefore needs to be checked by a doctor.
How can you tell if you have hypogonadism? Here are some symptoms:
- Under-developed male genitals
If the impairment in testosterone happened when you were in the womb, then this will have impacted on the growth of the genitals. It could even lead to male children having female or androgynous genitalia.
- Delayed puberty
If the hypogonadism occurs during puberty, then this can cause an incomplete or lack of normal development of the body. This means that males may not grow body hair, may have a decrease in muscle mass, impaired growth of the penis and testicles and a lack of deepening to the voice. Another clear symptom is having limbs that appear too long for the trunk of the body.
- Erectile Dysfunction
After puberty, if testosterone has been normal but suddenly drops off, then one of the first symptoms may be erectile dysfunction. This is often known as impotence but may also show itself as a weakness when sustaining an erection.
- Diminished penile sensation
This is a symptom that is likely to cause a lot of worry and concern. Any loss of sensation in the body should be treated seriously. In this case it could simply be a malfunction in the body’s ability to create testosterone.
- Reduced ejaculation
Obviously, but not always, a reduction in sperm creation will mean that ejaculations are reduced. This means the amount of semen you produce is much less upon orgasm.
Testosterone primarily aids the body’s production of sperm. This means that having too little testosterone will likely make you infertile, as there is little or no chance of sperm reaching the egg for fertilization to occur. Even with a lower sperm count, conception may be highly restricted.
- Decrease in beard and body hair
A reduction in beard growth is a sign that is easier to spot than most. If you have previously been able to grow a full beard and begin to notice it appearing patchier – then it is a sign that your body is not producing enough testosterone.
- Decrease in muscle mass
A loss of muscle mass is more difficult to gauge, unless you are someone who works on your physique on a daily basis. Most men as they grow older expect to lose the defined muscle of youth. Therefore, it is easy to suggest that the paunch is middle age spread rather than a lack of testosterone. It might be worth considering, if there are other symptoms you are spotting.
- Development of breast tissue
The growth of moobs, or man breasts, can often be the thing of jokes. It can again, as with decrease in body muscle, be linked to middle age and a greater difficulty in maintaining a good body. However, if there is a period of distinct growth it may be worth having hormonal levels checked.
- Abdominal Adiposity
This, in non-medical terms, means a build-up of fat in the abdomen. Sometimes referred to as a beer belly or middle age spread, the increase in fat around the stomach could be a result of low testosterone levels.
- Loss of bone mass
The medical term for loss of bone mass is osteoporosis and is a form of arthritis. The bone can become brittle and easily broken or eroded. This is a serious condition and may be a result of old age but is also a strong indicator of a low testosterone level.
- Change in mood
In some respects, hypogonadism is similar to the effects of the menopause on women. It is highly likely that you will suffer from extreme emotions that could be perceived as a mental imbalance. Before presuming that you are losing your mind, you might want to ask for a blood test to have your hormone levels checked.
- Hot Flashes
An unpleasant symptom of the menopause can also impact on men suffering low testosterone. Sudden hot flushes can be embarrassing and uncomfortable. It is also a clear sign that you might want your hormone levels checked.
Feeling unduly tired is an easy symptom to spot but a hard one to attribute to physical health. It is easy to dismiss fatigue as a need for a holiday or the impact of a virus. A good medical practitioner will ask for a blood test, as a matter of course, if you report fatigue.
- Reduced energy and stamina
Maybe your sense of wellness is not best described as fatigue. It might be better described as a loss of energy or a reduction in your resilience. This too could be a result of a drop in hormonal levels.
- Decreased sex drive
Your libido is fueled by your testosterone. This means if levels drop your desire for sex will drop too. This may not seem like too much of a problem when entering middle age. However, a healthy sex life is seen as an important contribution to a happy, fulfilled life. Therefore, it is not necessarily something that you should just accept.
- Difficulty concentrating and poor short term memory
A feature of the mental disturbance caused by low testosterone will be an inability to concentrate. This might easily be dismissed as a lack of engagement with work or home-life but may actually have a medical explanation.
Oddly, having too much iron in your blood can cause hypogonadism. However, if you have low iron blood count this can equally indicate a problem with your testosterone production.
- Changes in cholesterol levels
This is a difficult symptom to attribute to low testosterone. It could be a result of a poor diet or a lack of exercise. You can see how then a lot of these symptoms can be clustered under the heading of a sedentary lifestyle. It is worth keeping in mind that testosterone can cause changes in your cholesterol levels.
Despite feeling fatigued and lacking energy you might also find that you cannot sleep. Along with redistribution of fat and loss of short-term memory – it is easy to suggest that these are a result of aging. However, there is no need to live with these symptoms, if the cause is a lessening in testosterone levels.
Benefits of Testosterone
Testosterone is mostly created in the testicle and is an essential symbol of masculinity. However, testosterone has other health functions in the body. Levels of testosterone peak in men during puberty and decline throughout life. It is completely normal for testosterone to drop gradually each year from puberty.
However, there may be more reasons than you realize for maintaining your testosterone levels.
- It helps maintain a healthy heart
A healthy heart pumps blood around the body, oxygenating organs and muscles. Low testosterone is linked to an increased risk of a cardiovascular illness. Men who experience angina or chest pain may want to consider asking their doctor to test testosterone levels.
- More muscle
Healthy testosterone levels help to retain muscle mass. If you are a keen athlete there is nothing more important to you than the muscle you work hard for and it could be impacted by your levels of testosterone.
- Less fat
Men with healthy testosterone levels are less likely to gain the middle age spread and man breasts often linked to old age. A study of 108 men over 65 revealed that testosterone treatment significantly helped fat distribution, particularly in arms and legs.
- Stronger bones
The risk of osteoporosis as we grow older is significant. This can be a result of old age and may happen with or without testosterone. However, testosterone strengthens the muscles that support the skeleton. Therefore, not only do you benefit from stronger bones but the bones are put under less stress because your muscles can support the frame for longer.
- Increased libido
Testosterone is the hormone of our sex drive. The more testosterone we have the more sex drive we enjoy. Life is for living, and sex is an important part of this living. Therefore, enhanced testosterone levels will do much to improve your experience in the bed.
- Improved mood
You could say that a boost to your sex drive will always improve your mood. However, in actual fact, there are studies by Harvard Medical School that show testosterone levels directly impact on how you feel. Testosterone could be an important factor in fighting depression in your life. There is some debate about whether depression causes low testosterone or vice versa. However, the important message we should take is that good testosterone levels often equate to a much better mood.
- Sharper mind
Testosterone helps to sharpen the senses and the mind. There are reasons why our cavemen ancestors were hairier, it is because they had more testosterone. They needed the greater input of the hormone because they were forced into higher levels of alertness to survive in a hostile environment.
- Plenty of energy
Optimal testosterone can give you a greater energy for life. If you have been feeling tired, then a boost of the hormone could be all that you need.
- Strong erection
Confidence is a natural reaction to increased testosterone but this could also be a result of the greater sense of manliness that comes from a strong erection. Our sense of masculinity is strongly connected to the quality of our erection and the impact on our self-esteem should not be under estimated.
- More fertile
Testosterone is the hormone that creates the seed that you sow. Therefore, an optimal testosterone level is the route to being the father that you want to be.
- Decreases your chances of Alzheimer’s Disease
In 2010 the University of Hong Kong released a study that followed 153 Chinese men from 55 years old and onwards. 47 men developed mild cognitive impairment. 10 of these had low testosterone and went on to develop Alzheimer’s. This doesn’t seem that convincing, as evidence goes. However, researchers in California claimed that increasing testosterone levels in mice with Alzheimer’s did slow the disease. Therefore, there is a growing awareness that although testosterone is not a cure, it is capable of maintaining greater levels of mental sharpness into older age.
- Increases competitiveness
Those men with a heightened desire to win at all costs are likely to have a higher testosterone level. So, increasing testosterone can significantly improve your drive and willingness to fight harder to be the best, or the fastest, or the strongest.
- Increases desire for power
It is pretty clear that many a dictator must have had an inflated testosterone level, as the hormone is directly linked to a desire for higher status. In fact, too much testosterone is being studied by some researchers – linking it to increased criminality in men over women. However, many claim that the link between testosterone and increased aggression is nothing more than a myth.
- You are more likely to attract women
Apparently there are studies which prove that women like a bit of a swagger. Testosterone fuels the need for a sense of dominance, which women find alluring. This is part evolution – in the sense that it is in women’s best interest for survival to go to the strongest man. It is also part confidence – as the increase of testosterone is more likely to encourage the man to believe he is attractive.
- Boosts your tolerance for risk taking
American studies show that college students with high testosterone levels are likelier to go into riskier careers. Apparently, financial traders are a bunch of men who have been proven to have an exceptionally high average level of testosterone.
- Maintain a healthy sleep pattern
Low testosterone is linked to insomnia. Therefore, optimal levels of testosterone help you maintain a healthy sleep pattern, which in turn will help you feel well rested. This in turn will help you to feel better in yourself all round.
- Improve insulin sensitivity
Testosterone is the body’s natural hormone created to boost activity and to therefore maintain a strong healthy body. Part of this is how well your body deals with sugar – if your body is out of balance there is a chance of a growing insensitivity to insulin. This is linked to the onset of Type 2 diabetes.
- Improve athletic performance
Improved muscle mass, improved bone strength and increased energy – it doesn’t take too much logic to suggest that your athletic ability will increase.
- Improved self-esteem
Let’s face it – our masculinity is a badge we wear. To feel manly is to feel good about ourselves. So, with the retention of muscle and the ability to maintain a strong erection comes a strong self-esteem.
- It keeps your loved one happy
If optimal testosterone levels mean nothing to you, then you need to think about your significant others. They like to see you feeling confident and, let’s face it, they will enjoy the improved performance in bed too.
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