Testosterone is a male hormone that is responsible for reproductive and sexual development. The National Institutes of Health says that testosterone is the most crucial hormone for males, though women do produce small amounts of it.
For men, it is involved in the development of male sex organs before birth and plays a key role in secondary sex characteristics during puberty, including body and facial hair growth, deepening voice, and increased penis and testes size. As well, it’s used to regulate the fat distribution, sperm production, red cell production, sex drive, and the maintenance of the strength and mass of muscles.
For women, testosterone takes more of a secondary role in body development. 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. During the aging process the production of testosterone drops, usually 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. Once again, both cases can occur in women and men, so it’s important to speak with your doctor on the subject. If you have any of the signs of symptoms listed below then you should start talking with your doctor.
What is High Testosterone?
It’s rare to find a case of high testosterone. Hyperthyroidism, adrenal tumors and precocious puberty are possible and do cause a large spike in testosterone production, but none of these cases are regular 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.
Often depression is thought of as extreme sad feelings, but it’s more like extreme dejection and despondency. It’s far more than just being sad. Depression will make an individual feel isolated, hopeless, and cause them to lose interested in many things they used to enjoy, such as hobbies or social interaction. Depression that involves high testosterone in those over 35 is found in women more often than men. This is caused by the body attempting to regulate itself through this large hormonal 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 the male reproductive organs 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:
Everyone will go through some moods swings. It’s something that happens and no one should feel ashamed for it when it does. The problem with this case is that they’re frequent and major. Most people who have mood swings usually go between two emotions in a short amount of time, but for those with high levels of testosterone, they can go through a whole range of emotions within a minute. They may start out angry, and then suddenly they’ll be in tears, and almost right away they’ll be smiling. They might become suddenly impulsive, then immediately talk themselves out of their impulsions. These play a major role in aggression as well, often triggered by inconsequential situations.
This is a symptom for higher and lower testosterone, however in higher it is often related to some of the things above. It is widely believed that higher testosterone levels will always increase sex drive and libido, but in some cases it actually lowers them. Mood affects our libido greatly, and if you’re experiencing major mood swings, it can negatively affect your personal sex life.
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What are the Effects of Low Testosterone?
Your body will naturally lower how much testosterone it produces to meet your needs as you age. That decrease generally begins (on average) around age 30, but usually we don’t experience the effects of it until our later 60’s. Having low testosterone is far more common than having high testosterone, however they do have some similarities when you look at their signs and symptoms.
This is when a man isn’t able to maintain an erection well enough for sexual activity. Now it’s important to know that low testosterone is rarely the sole cause of ED, and the other causes will also need to be treated, which could be anything from emotional strain to 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 to stimulate the receptors in the brain, as well as produce the nitric oxide in male sex organs.
Perimenopause is the length of time around a woman’s final menstrual period. Menopause decreases the amount of testosterone in women, which is a natural occurrence. If levels are too low though then this can start too early, resulting in fatigue, irregular periods, lower libido, and more.
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. However, as we get older, the distribution of DHT is spread out differently over time, meaning that you can suffer not just from balding, but you can also experience increased hair growth in other places, like your chest, your back, even your facial hair. Decreased testosterone doesn’t necessarily mean hair loss, rather it’s more akin to hair growth irregularity.
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. Your body fat will likely increase, even if your function or strength persists. Men will eventually see their testosterone decline into a state of “adrenopause” where they have a partial androgen deficiency. Testosterone also plays a key role in the balancing and regulating of your fat metabolism, insulin, and glucose.
When the estrogen and testosterone levels are out of balance they may cause a man to experience gynecomastia, which is a swelling of the breast tissues. 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 is able to affect just one or both of the breasts, and sometimes in uneven amounts.
Osteoporosis is a medical condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue, typically as a result of hormonal changes, or deficiency of calcium or vitamin D. Simply put, it is the thinning of bone mass, and this condition is often associated with women, but men with low testosterone can also experience this as well, as testosterone helps maintain that bone density and mass. Bones from an individual with this are much easier to break.
How Could Hypogonadism Affect Me?
This condition is when the body is unable to produce enough testosterone. It is a completely separate entity from simply having lower testosterone levels, as it is a condition that you are either born with or develops later in life as the result from an injury or infection. You don’t need hypogonadism to experience the above listed symptoms. However it is important to be able to recognize the symptoms at all stages of life.
- Ambiguous genitalia
- Female genitalia (in a genetically male child)
- Underdeveloped male genitalia
In pubescent boys:
- A lack of developed muscle mass
- Lack of voice deepening
- Lack of hair on the body and face
- A slow increase in the testicle and penis size
- Disproportionate growth of limbs
Men after puberty:
- Lacking in their sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction (ED)
- Little body or facial hair
- Breast tissue growth
As the level of testosterone in the body decreases with age, men may also experience:
- Decreased sex drive
- Trouble concentrating
- Changes in sleep patterns
What Happens in Testosterone Replacement Therapy?
If a doctor confirms that you have a strangely low testosterone level then they might suggest you get treatment. This is called testosterone replacement therapy, and some of the forms include:
- Transdermal (Aka “Skin Patch”): These patches are similar to a bandage and are worn on the arms or upper body, with a new one applied each day. 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: Similar to skin patches, mouth patches are tablets that stick to the upper gums, just above the incisors and are applied twice daily.
- Gels: These are lotions that are rubbed along and absorbed through the skin, usually applied once a day.
- Injections/Implants: These are injected or implanted so that the testosterone can be directly placed into your bloodstream.
- Pills: These can be problematic for your liver. Unless you have a necessity for them, such as an allergy to other treatments, they aren’t the recommended source.
Testosterone replacement therapy does come with risks. The immediate side effects are normally mild, things like acne or irregular breathing patterns while sleeping. However, long-term risks can be far more severe. It’s been reported that men who are on testosterone are more at risk of developing cardiovascular issues, like heart disease, heart attacks, or stroke, and while research has yet to confirm there is a concern that testosterone replacement therapy is able to stimulate the growth of prostate cancer cells. 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 speak with them about getting your testosterone levels tested, and then determine what the risks are for you and what the next steps, if any, are that you should take.
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.