What Is Hypogonadism?
Hypogonadism is a medical complication in which the testicles do not function properly. In this condition, the body doesn't produce enough hormones responsible for masculine growth and body development during puberty or enough sperm or both.
The condition, male hypogonadism, can be developed from the time of birth, or it can develop later in life, usually from injury or infection. The cause of such condition and age plays a vital role in the process of treating hypogonadism. At the same time, some types of male hypogonadism can be cured with testosterone replacement therapy.
Before knowing about the causes of hypogonadism, it is essential to understand the basic categories of hypogonadism.
What Are The Types Of Hypogonadism?
There are basically two types of hypogonadism, such as:-
Primary hypogonadism: Primary hypogonadism is a type of hypogonadism in which the body is unable to produce a sufficient amount of sex hormones due to a problem in your gonads. In such cases, the gonads continuously receive the signals to produce hormones from your brain, but they are unable to produce them. Thus, the improper functioning of the gonads is the leading cause in this case.
Central hypogonadism: In this type of hypogonadism, the problem lies in your brain. Parts of the brain, such as Hypothalamus and Pituitary gland, control the secretion of gonads. Because of the improper functioning of these parts of the brain, the body cannot produce enough sex hormones. This condition is known as secondary hypogonadism.
What Causes Hypogonadism?
The causes for hypogonadism can clearly be understood once they are categorized based on their types, such as:-
- Autoimmune disorders, like Addison’s disease and hypoparathyroidism
- Liver and kidney diseases
- Undescended testes
- Genetic disorders, like Turner syndrome and Klinefelter syndrome
- Surgery on your sexual organs
- Severe infections, such as mumps involving your testicles
- Hemochromatosis, a condition in which your body absorbs too much iron
- Radiation exposure
- Genetic disorders, like Kallmann syndrome (abnormal hypothalamic development)
- Genital Infections, including HIV
- Pituitary disorders
- Inflammatory diseases, including sarcoidosis, tuberculosis, and histiocytosis
- Rapid weight loss
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Use of steroids or opioids
- Brain Surgery
- Pituitary gland tumor
- Exposure to radiation
- Injury to your pituitary gland or hypothalamus
How Does Hypogonadism Affect The Body?
Hypogonadism can develop during the fetal stage or even during adulthood. The signs and symptoms of hypogonadism depend at the time of development of the condition(age). Based on that, here are the symptoms mentioned below:-
Fetal development: If the body cannot produce enough testosterone during fetal development, it can cause impaired growth of the external sex organs. On the basis of when hypogonadism develops and how much testosterone is present, a child who is genetically male can have:
- Female genitals
- Ambiguous genitals(Genitals that are neither clearly male nor clearly female)
- Underdeveloped male genitals
Puberty: Male hypogonadism can lead to delay puberty or result in incomplete or lack of normal development. It can hamper the following things, such as:-
- Muscle mass development
- Deepening of the voice
- The excessive growing of arms and legs in relation to the trunk of the body
- Body growth and facial hair
- Growth of the penis and testicles
- (Gynecomastia) development of breast tissue
Adulthood: In the case of adult males, hypogonadism can affect certain masculine physical characteristics and impair normal reproductive function. Early signs and symptoms of male hypogonadism are as follows:-
- Decreased in sex drive
- Low energy
With time, men with hypogonadism can develop:
- Erectile dysfunction
- A decrease in hair growth on the face and body
- A decrease in muscle mass
- Development of breast tissue (gynecomastia)
- Loss of bone mass (osteoporosis)
Severe hypogonadism can also result in mental and emotional changes. This usually occurs due to a decrease in the level of testosterone. It can lead to symptoms similar to those of menopause in women, such as:-
- Difficulty while concentrating
- Hot flashes
What Puts You In The Risk Of Hypogonadism?
Some of the medical conditions increase the chance of developing hypogonadism, such as:-
- Previous chemotherapy or radiation therapy
Hypogonadism is hereditary. It can be transmitted from the parents to their children. In case any of these risk factors are present in your family member, do inform your doctor.
Along with the risk factors, some complications may occur due to untreated hypogonadism, which depends on fetal development, puberty, or adulthood.
Thus complications that may occur include:-
- Abnormal genitalia
- Gynecomastia (Enlarged male breasts)
- Erectile dysfunction
- Poor body image
Can Hypogonadism Be Cured?
The primary motive behind the treatment of hypogonadism is to increase the number of sex hormones.
In the case of females, the first line of treatment will probably be estrogen therapy if the person has a hysterectomy.
But high estrogen levels can increase the risk of endometrial cancer. Thus, the doctor may prescribe a combination of estrogen and progesterone in case you haven’t had a hysterectomy. It is because progesterone can reduce the risk of endometrial cancer if consuming estrogen.
Other treatments can target only specific symptoms, such as in case a person experiences a low sex drive, he may receive low doses of testosterone. In case a woman faces menstrual irregularities or trouble conceiving, she may receive injections of the hormone human choriogonadotropin or pills that contain FSH to trigger ovulation.
In the case of males, testosterone is the male sex hormone, and its replacement therapy is a commonly used treatment for hypogonadism in males. Testosterone replacement therapy can be performed in various ways, such as:-
Injections of a gonadotropin-releasing hormone may trigger puberty or increase your sperm production.
The treatment process for both the genders is similar if the hypogonadism is due to a tumor on the pituitary gland. Treatment to shrink or remove the tumor includes:
Until and unless hypogonadism is caused by a treatable condition, it is a chronic condition that may require lifelong treatment. The level of sex hormone may reduce in case you stop treatment.
Seeking support through therapy or support groups can help you before, during, and after treatment.