The Ultimate Guide to Testosterone

1.jpgTestosterones are a type of male hormones known as androgens, which are vital for sexual and reproductive development. The National Institutes of Health says that testosterone is the most crucial hormone for males, though women do produce small amounts of it.

It’s essential for the development of male sex organs ahead of birth, and is vital during puberty when the secondary sex characteristics are being formed, including an increase in penis and testes size, growth of facial and body hair, and deepening of the voice. Testosterones regulate the sex drive, sperm production, fat distribution, red cell production, and the maintenance of muscle strength and mass.

Testosterone plays a secondary role in the development of the female body. Women do need it, however they rely on other hormones more. It has much less influence on body growth, but it still helps with the maintenance of body mass and muscles, and the regulation of sex drives, and of red cell production.

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. Yet there have been instances where people are producing too much or too little of it. If you have questions or concerns you should speak with your doctor, whether you’re a man or a woman, as both genders are capable of problems. If you have any of the signs of symptoms listed below then you should start talking with your doctor.

How does High Testosterone Affect the Body?

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.

Depression:

Often depression is thought of as extreme sad feelings, but it’s more like extreme dejection and despondency. It’s more than just feeling 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. High levels of testosterone are often directly linked to depression in individuals over the age of 35, more commonly found in women than men. This is due to there being a large hormonal imbalance, and the body is attempting to compensate for it.

Aggression:

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:

One of the reasons for this is that the excess testosterone will actually be converted into estrogen. This causes the male reproductive organs to produce less sperm. If you notice a significant change in testicular size, it is important that you speak with a doctor immediately.

Frequent and Major Mood Swings:

Everyone will go through some moods swings. It just happens sometimes, and no one should feel ashamed for it. However, the keywords are 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. First they’re sad, then happy, and then suddenly they’re pissed off. They may become impulsive, and will right away talk to themselves because of it. These play a major role in aggression as well, often triggered by inconsequential situations.

Lowered Libido:

While both higher and lower testosterone will have this symptom, the case for higher is that it often involves some of the other symptoms. Many believe higher testosterone would raise the sex drive and libido, however it actually can lower it. Much of sex is about the mood the two people are in, so if one of you is going through a major mood swing it’ll put a damper on plans, and can even end up hurting the relationship.

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How does Low Testosterone Affect the Body?

Your body will naturally lower how much testosterone it produces to meet your needs as you age. While the decrease often begins around age 30, the effects aren’t often felt until our late 60’s. It is far more common to experience low testosterone than higher testosterone, and they do share similarities when it comes to symptoms and signs.

Erectile Dysfunction:

Erectile dysfunction is the inability of a man to maintain an erection sufficient 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. Still, it is enough to mess with sex organs. Both your sex driving and ability to maintain an erection depend on testosterone. It helps to stimulate the receptors in the brain, as well as produce the nitric oxide in male sex organs.

Perimenopause:

Also known as early menopause, this is the time from before and, up to a year, after the final menstrual period for women. 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 is found in the skin, and allows hair to grow in certain places. 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. Lower testosterone doesn’t necessarily mean complete hair loss, instead it’s more likely that your hair is just growing somewhere else.

Increased Body Fat and Loss of Muscle Mass:

As mentioned before, testosterone plays a major role in building and maintaining muscle mass. Your muscle mass will probably be decreasing when your testosterone does. This does not necessarily mean a loss of strength or function, but it can mean an increase in overall body fat. 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.

In particular, men can experience gynecomastia, a swelling of breast tissue caused by the imbalance in testosterone and estrogen levels. Commonly, men experience swollen breast gland tissues and tenderness, and in some cases, discharge from one or both nipples. Gynecomastia is able to affect just one or both of the breasts, and sometimes in uneven amounts.

Osteoporosis:

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. 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. Bones from an individual with this are much easier to break.

How Could Hypogonadism Affect Me?

Hypogonadism is the condition in which the body doesn’t 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. It is important that we understand the signs for it that are in all stages of life:

In babies:

  • Ambiguous genitalia
  • Female genitalia (in a genetically male child)
  • Underdeveloped male genitalia

In pubescent boys:

  • Lack of muscle mass development
  • No deepening of the voice
  • Lack of body and facial hair
  • Slow increase in size of penis and testicles
  • Their legs and arms grow disproportionately

In men after puberty:

  • Infertility
  • A low libido
  • Erectile dysfunction (ED)
  • Lacking in facial or body hair
  • Growth of breast tissue

Since testosterone decreases with age, men should also expect:

  • Fatigue
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Trouble in staying concentrated
  • A change in sleep patterns

How does Testosterone Replacement Therapy Work?

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. The patches contain the the patient’s prescription, which is then absorbed through the skin in a steady and controlled manner.
  • Mouth Patch: These act in the same way as the skin patches, and they are placed on the upper gums, above the incisors, and will need to be applied twice a day.
  • Gels: These are lotions that are rubbed along and absorbed through the skin, usually applied once a day.
  • Injections/Implants: As implied, these treatments are injected directly into the bloodstream, slowly absorbing the testosterone into the system.
  • 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. 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. Whatever you wish to do, you should talk with your doctor first. You can ask them to test your testosterone levels and go over the risks with you.

Along with that, enter the idea of testosterone replacement therapy with realistic expectations. It isn’t some magic cure, and doctors will normally advise against it if your symptoms are simply part of aging.

 

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