Male hypogonadism happens when the sex glands do not produce enough testosterone.
When a man’s sex glands do not produce enough testosterone, sperm or both, male hypogonadism occurs. Testosterone is a hormone that plays a key role in masculine growth and development during puberty as well as helps a man’s body maintain adequate bone density, sexual and reproduction function and red blood cells. It also impacts a man’s overall sense of well-being.
Male hypogonadism (also known as low testosterone) can fall into two categories:
- Primary male hypogonadism means that the gonads (testes) aren’t able to produce the right amount of testosterone.
- Secondary male hypogonadism means that the gonads aren’t receiving messages from your brain (specifically, the hypothalamus and pituitary gland) to produce testosterone.
What Causes Male Hypogonadism?
Some causes of primary hypogonadism include:
- Autoimmune disorders
- Excessive iron (hemochromatosis)
- Exposure to radiation
- Genetic disorders
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Surgery on reproductive organs
- Undescended testicles
A case of secondary hypogonadism may be a result of:
- Brain surgery
- Exposure to radiation
- A genetic disorder
- An inflammatory disease
- An injury to the pituitary gland or hypothalamus
- Nutritional deficiencies
- A pituitary disorder or pituitary tumor
- Rapid weight loss
- Using steroids or opioids
What Are the Symptoms of Male Hypogonadism?
Some of the most common symptoms of male hypogonadism include:
- Abnormal breast growth (gynecomastia)
- Decreased body hair
- Erectile dysfunction
- Hot flashes
- Low or no sex drive
- Muscle loss
How Is Male Hypogonadism Diagnosed?
The first step is to have a physical exam so that your doctor can properly assess your physical and sexual well-being. If male hypogonadism is suspected, your doctor will likely recommend:
- Blood testing to check your hormone levels
- A semen analysis to review your sperm count
- Imaging tests such as an MRI or CT scan to rule out a pituitary tumor
How Is Male Hypogonadism Treated?
Male hypogonadism is most typically treated with testosterone replacement therapy, which can be administered by:
- Gel application
- Nasal inhalation
- Gum and cheek application
- Implantable pellets
If your condition is caused by a pituitary tumor, surgery may be the recommended course of action followed by radiation therapy and hormone replacement therapy.