Testosterones are a type of male hormones known as androgens, which are vital for sexual and reproductive development. The National Institutes of Health holds testosterone as the most important male hormones, and while women produce testosterone as well, it is far more crucial for male reproduction.
It’s not only involved in developing male sex organs before birth, but plays a key role in the secondary sex characteristics that occur during puberty, including deepening voice, facial and body hair growth, and an increase in testes and penis size. It also regulates the sperm production, sex drive, red cell production, fat distribution, and the maintenance of muscle mass and strength.
Testosterone plays a secondary role in the development of the female body. That isn’t to say that it isn’t important for women, just that they rely more on other hormones more so than testosterone. It still helps with maintenance of body muscles and mass, red cell production and regulation of sex drives, but it has far less influence during on body growth during puberty than it does in men.
Both sexes benefit from testosterone, and thats why its important that its properly regulated. As we grow older, it naturally becomes more difficult for our bodies to produce testosterone, usually occurring in our early 30’s. However, there are instances where the body will produce too much or little to meet the needs of our bodies. Again, both men and women can suffer from this, so please speak with your doctor for more personal details. If you experience any of the following symptoms or signs, then it may be time to open up that discussion.
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What is High Testosterone?
It is important to note that cases of high testosterone are very rare. Adrenal tumors, hyperthyroidism, and precocious puberty are all able to cause it, however none of these are common occurrences. More than likely, anyone with high testosterone production are suffering from the side effects of anabolic steroid abuse, usually in individuals in the athletic community.
Depression is often described as heightened feelings of sadness, but the actual definition describes these feelings to be more akin to severe despondency and dejection. It’s more than just feeling sad. Depression makes someone feel isolated, and will cause them to lose interested in social interaction, activities, and even their hobbies. Depression that involves high testosterone in those over 35 is found in women more often than men. This is because there is a major hormonal imbalance, and you body is trying to overcompensate for that imbalance.
Though this is most common in men, anyone who has a higher testosterone level will often respond to a situation in a hostile manner. These individuals could become violent in extreme cases, and often may have short tempers or overreact to annoyances or inconveniences.
Decrease Testicular Size/Sperm Count:
The reason that this occurs is that your body takes all of the excess testosterone and converts it to estrogen. This causes men to produce less sperm. If you notice that there is a significant change in the size of your testicals then you should speak with your doctor right away.
Frequent and Major Mood Swings:
Mood swings themselves are pretty normal. It shouldn’t cause anyone to feel shame when they go through one. However, the keywords are frequent and major. While a normal mood swing involves going between two emotions in a small window of time, one fueled by high testosterone will swing through a range of emotions in the span of a minute. They may start out angry, and then suddenly they’ll be in tears, and almost right away they’ll be smiling. They may become impulsive, and will right away talk to themselves because of it. This can also have a major impact on their aggressive tendencies.
This is a symptom for higher and lower testosterone, however in higher it is often related to some of the things above. Many believe higher testosterone would raise the sex drive and libido, however it actually can lower it. You mood will greatly affect your libido, so if you’re going through some major mood swings then your sex life may not be very active.
What is Low Testosterone?
As mentioned before, the body will naturally produce less testosterone as we grow older. While the decrease often begins around age 30, the effects aren’t often felt until our late 60’s. Low testosterone is much more common than high, though they have some similar signs and symptoms.
This dysfunction is when a man is unable to keep an erection that is usable for sexual activity. ED is almost never the result of just low testosterone; often there is a secondary cause, such as diabetes, physical conditions, even substance abuse. Know that, it is able to cause problems with sex organs. Testosterone is used in stimulating sex drives and maintaining erections. It helps stimulate the receptors in the brain to produce nitric oxide in the male sex organs.
Also known as early menopause, this is the time from before and, up to a year, after the final menstrual period for women. Menopause is when the amount of testosterone in a woman naturally decreases. When a woman has low testosterone this process will begin earlier, and it will result in irregular periods, lowered libido, fatigue, and other such symptoms.
Hair Growth and Loss:
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is the specific type of testosterone that regulates hair growth, and it is produced by an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase. It’s in the skin and allows hair to grow in a given place. DHT will be distributed different as you age, which means that you aren’t just balding, but likely your chest hair, or facial hair, or arm hair is increasing. When people joke about their hair moving from their head to their back, that really is what happened.
Increased Body Fat and Loss of Muscle Mass:
As said before, testosterone will play a big role in the building and maintaining of your muscle mass. This means that if you have less testosterone then you likely will have less muscle mass. While you may retain the function and strength you had, you probably will see an increase in your body fat. Starting at middle age, men will see their testosterone decline steadily until they reach “adrenopause” which is when they have a partial androgen deficiency. Your insulin, glucose, and fat metabolism are all affected by your testosterone.
Men may experience gynecomastia, which is when the breast tissue swells because of an imbalance in the estrogen and testosterone levels. Men will often have swollen breast gland tissues, they’ll be tender, and there may even be discharge from one or both of the nipples. Gynecomastia can affect one or both breasts, sometimes unevenly.
Osteoporosis is a condition where the bones become fragile and brittle due to a loss of tissue, often because of changes in hormones or a deficiency of calcium and/or vitamin D. More simply, bones become thin, and while this is often associated with women, men are also able to experience this problem is they have low testosterone, as it aids in maintaining bone density and mass. This process makes bones far more easy to fracture.
How Could Hypogonadism Affect Me?
Hypogonadism is the condition in which the body doesn’t produce enough testosterone. This is different from lower testosterone, as its either from birth or a result of infection or injury. You don’t need hypogonadism to experience the above listed symptoms. It is important that we understand the signs for it that are in all stages of life:
- Ambiguous genitalia
- Female genitals on a genetically male child
- Underdeveloped male genitalia
In boys around the age of puberty:
- A lack of developed muscle mass
- No voice changes
- Lack of facial and body hair
- Slow increase in size of penis and testicles
- Their legs and arms grow disproportionately
In men after puberty:
- A low libido
- Erectile dysfunction (ED)
- Little body or facial hair
- Growth of breast tissue
As the level of testosterone in the body decreases with age, men may also experience:
- Lower libido
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in sleep patterns
What is Testosterone Replacement Therapy?
A doctor can suggest a treatment if they find you do that lower than normal testosterone levels. Some of the ways this testosterone replacement therapy can be performed is as follows:
- Transdermal (Aka “Skin Patch”): These patches are applied daily, and generally are use on the upper body and/or arms. These patches contain the medication prescribed to the patient and are designed in such a way that the medication permeates the skin in a controlled fashion, thus attaining more steady levels of the drug in the body.
- Mouth Patch: These are similar to the skin patches, and will be applied twice a day to the upper gums, above the incisors.
- Gels: These are lotions that are rubbed along and absorbed through the skin, usually applied once a day.
- Injections/Implants: Just as they say, these are implanted or injected for direct addition of testosterone into the bloodstream, and thusly your system.
- Pills: Pills and supplements are also offered but often have negative effects on the liver. Unless you have a necessity for them, such as an allergy to other treatments, they aren’t the recommended source.
There are risks in this replacement therapy. Immediate side effects are generally mild, such as acne, irregular breathing while sleeping, or swelling in the ankles. However, long-term risks can be far more severe. It has been reported that some men on testosterone developed cardiovascular issues, such as strokes, heart disease and heart attacks, and there is a growing concern in the community that testosterone replacement therapy could stimulate the growth of prostate cancer cells, though this has not been completely confirmed as of yet. No matter what, it is important to speak with your doctor before making any decisions on whether or not treatment is right for you. You can ask them to test your testosterone levels and go over the risks with you.
You’ll want to have a more realistic look at testosterone replacement therapy. It isn’t some magic cure, and doctors will normally advise against it if your symptoms are simply part of aging.