What is testosterone?
Testosterone is an androgenic (male) hormone produced by the testes.
In men, testosterone plays a significant part in the male growth of reproductive organs like the prostate and testes and also promoting male secondary sexual characteristics including increased bone and muscle mass, and increased body hair.
Testosterone is synthesized by the ovaries and adrenal glands and released into the bloodstream where it travels to the testicles for conversion to testosterone.
The testes also produce Luteinizing hormone (LH), which is responsible for the generation of female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone.
When the testes stop producing testosterone, or when the ovaries and adrenals stop producing testosterone, respectively, the production of these other hormones will cease.
This condition is referred to as hypogonadism.
Common symptoms include obesity, infertility, depression, and lack of muscle strength.
Other symptoms include irregular heartbeats, enlargement of breasts, enlargement of buttocks and thighs, hypoglycemia, and hypertension.
In menopause, the ovaries and adrenals cease to produce testosterone and the result is typically hypogonadism.
The decreased production of these hormones is associated with changes in estrogen production at this time in a woman’s life.
As estrogen levels return to normal levels after menopause, estrogen dominance sets in and may cause the ovaries and adrenals to resume their activities.
This causes an increase in testosterone receptors on the testes and a corresponding increase in its production.
Testosterone is important in maintaining healthy sexual function and bone growth in both men and women.
It is believed that in males, the production of testosterone may be affected by the presence of an androgen called DHT.
Testosterone production may be high in young men who have low levels of androgens.
Low levels of testosterone in males cause them to experience andropause or menopause and to begin experiencing hair loss.
Testosterone replacement therapy, or testosterone replacement, is a treatment in which synthetic testosterone is infused into the body.
In theory, the body absorbs the desired level of testosterone and stores it in seminal fluid.
Over time, the levels of testosterone drop, and the levels of sex hormones fall.
Because testosterone is a natural hormone produced throughout a man’s puberty and into old age, its replacement therapy can help prevent the onset of osteoporosis, a common disease resulting from decreased levels of testosterone.
Some research suggests that low levels of testosterone may play a role in the onset of gynecomastia, a condition where the chest begins to grow significantly larger than normal for its size.
Other research has linked decreased testosterone levels to an increased risk of developing :
- high blood sugar levels
- heart disease
- erectile dysfunction
- liver disease
- and some forms of cancer.
For these reasons, low levels of testosterone are suspected of contributing to the development of several serious conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease and prostate cancer.
Because of this, doctors often prescribe testosterone and androstenedione, a form of synthetic testosterone, to treat these conditions.