Hypogonadism is a condition that affects as many as 5 million males in the United States. Although many men may feel self conscious talking about it, it’s important to recognize that it isn’t uncommon and it can be remedied.
If you believe you may be living with symptoms of male hypogonadism, here’s what you need to know about recognizing signs for concern, speaking with your doctor, and seeking appropriate treatment.
What Is Hypogonadism in Males?
Hypogonadism in males is a condition where the testes or glands don’t produce adequate amounts of the male sex hormone testosterone. Testosterone helps the body to build and maintain muscle, as well as maintain normal body composition.
When the body’s total testosterone level is too low for growth, development, or maintenance, the effects are experienced in a wide variety of ways. Older men often find issues with sexual dysfunction, such as their libido decreasing along with reduced sperm production. Men of all ages may experience irritability or a depressed mood.
Adolescent males need adequate testosterone to grow and develop normally, especially when it comes to healthy bone density and bone mass. Hypogonadism in young males is often treated with significant urgency, as the consequences of low serum testosterone levels during development can reverberate throughout adulthood and throttle the body’s process of naturally maturing.
What Causes Hypogonadism?
There are two types of hypogonadism:
- Primary hypogonadism occurs when the testes aren’t able to properly fulfill their role in the production of sex hormones, and a testosterone deficiency occurs.
- Secondary hypogonadism occurs when the glands responsible for hormone production signaling, like the pituitary gland or the hypothalamus, aren’t properly signaling the testes. The testicles are capable of producing adequate testosterone, but they won’t do it unless they’re prompted to do so by the glands in the brain.
Some people are born with hypogonadism. Other people will develop hypogonadism later in life. Injuries to the glands or testes can cause hypogonadism, as can severe illness or infections that damage the glands. Men who have undergone cancer treatments like chemotherapy can experience hypogonadism as a side effect of treatment.
Causes of Primary Hypogonadism
Testicular injury can cause hypogonadism if the injury affects both testicles. Sometimes, one healthy testicle can sufficiently fulfill the body’s need for testosterone production.
Primary hypogonadism can occur in early childhood if the testicles never descend. Some male children are born with undescended testicles. They remain where they formed in the abdomen and have not yet dropped into the scrotum. This issue usually remedies itself with time. If it doesn’t and is not corrected in a timely manner, the end result can be hypogonadism.
Some illnesses like mumps that affect the testicles can cause damage that lead to hypogonadism.
Congenital conditions like Klinefelter Syndrome that affect the chromosomes can impede proper development of the testicles.
Causes of Secondary Hypogonadism
Abnormalities in the formation of function in the pituitary gland that exist independently or occur as a result of an underlying condition or disorder can cause secondary hypogonadism — Kallmann’s syndrome is just one condition that causes this.
Inflammatory disorders, autoimmune disorders, and disorders like HIV can also cause secondary hypogonadism as a result of the way they affect the brain.
Hypogonadism can occur as a result of the normal aging process or as a result of health consequences directly related to obesity.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Hypogonadism?
The signs of hypogonadism in males will present themselves differently at different stages of life. Although it’s often easily recognized at birth and adolescence, it may be a little more difficult to discern hypogonadism in adults.
Hypogonadism in males is easy to assign at birth. Male babies born with hypogonadism may present with female genitals, ambiguous genitals, or abnormalities in the way genitals appear.
Hypogonadism can cause delayed puberty, and can even prevent normal male puberty completely. Male children with hypogonadism may experience delays in genital growth or the growth of facial hair. Their voices may remain childlike, and in some cases, they may develop an abnormally significant amount of breast tissue.
In adulthood, hypogonadism often contributes to sexual health concerns. Men with hypogonadism often experience decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, and infertility.
Men with hypogonadism will often develop breast tissue, along with other changes in body composition. A reduction in muscle mass, unexpected weight gain, and a decrease in energy levels are common symptoms of hypogonadism in males.
In severe cases, men may experience a decrease in mental focus, depression, or hot flashes.
How Is Hypogonadism Diagnosed?
Your doctor will perform a physical examination and some blood tests. Blood tests are used to check your hormone levels in search of anomalies, such as low testosterone levels.
If you receive a diagnosis of hypogonadism, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes and medical treatments like hormone therapy to help your body return to health. This may involve changing your diet and losing weight if you are overweight or obese. It may also involve therapeutic injections and additional nutritional support.
How Is Hypogonadism Treated?
Hypogonadism can have broad effects on the body. Testosterone injections can help get your body’s level of testosterone back within normal range, while nutraceuticals can help to remedy some of the side effects men experience as a result of hypogonadism.
With adequate treatment, many of the symptoms of hypogonadism can subside in as soon as one month. Some men find that it can take up to six months of testosterone therapy to experience the full benefits of restoration to their sexual function.
If an underlying condition or injury is the cause of hypogonadism, intervention to treat, cure, or repair the cause may help the body to recover from hypogonadism. In many cases, hormone therapy is used in conjunction with treatment for underlying conditions.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy
Testosterone replacement therapy injections can be used to treat low testosterone associated with hypogonadism. These injections can quickly and easily be self administered at home. Your doctor will give you thorough instructions regarding how much testosterone to use and how often you should use it. Throughout the duration of your treatment, you should speak regularly to your doctor to discuss your concerns, ask questions, report progress, or monitor potential side effects.
There are other forms of testosterone therapy, like cream, patches, or gels, but they often aren’t as effective as methods like injection. In some cases, men may still choose these alternatives over injection. It’s important to discuss the pros and cons of each treatment method with your doctor. You’ll be able to explore your options and choose an effective treatment method you feel comfortable with.
Many adult men who have lived with hypogonadism for an extended period of time will experience reduced energy levels and unwanted weight gain. Nutraceutical support can help to ease some of these side effects, providing support to the metabolism.
Nutraceuticals are vitamins that provide benefits beyond nutrition. B vitamins are especially useful. Many B vitamins are crucial for metabolic health and energy support. B vitamins are also used to manage skincare concerns like acne.
Getting Started with Elite HRT
Elite HRT’s team of experienced doctors can help formulate and oversee a treatment plant for hypogonadism. Speak to one of our telemedicine doctors from the comfort of your own home. Your doctor will help you make appointments for necessary tests in your local area. If you’re diagnosed with hypogonadism, we’ll be able to provide you with the supplies you need for at-home testosterone therapy.
Hypogonadism in male cancer patients | National Institutes of Health
Etiology and Treatment of Hypogonadism in Adolescents | National Institutes of Health
Onset of effects of testosterone treatment and time span until maximum effects are achieved | National Institutes of Health.