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Testosterone Hormone: What It Is and How It Affects You

Testosterone Hormone: What It Is and How It Affects You

May 25, 2020

Testosterone Hormone OverviewTestosterone is an Trusted sourceAndrogenHealthy WomenGo to sourceandrogen , or male hormone. In fact it is the most important male hormone, but women’s bodies make and need testosterone too. Testicles primarily make testosterone in men. Women’s ovaries also make testosterone, though in much smaller amounts.

Why Do We Need Testosterone?

Testosterone in males is primarily responsible for boys maturing sexually and being able to produce sperm. It is also responsible for all of the “secondary sexual characteristics” we associate with the onset of puberty, such as a deepening voice, beard growth, etc.

As adults, in both men and women, testosterone is associated with sex drive or libido. It plays a vital role in muscle and bone growth as well. It has an impact on cognition and emotional wellbeing.

Testosterone also impacts how the body metabolizes or stores fat.

How Is Testosterone Regulated in the Body?

Testosterone is produced by the gonads. These are the testes in men and by the ovaries in women. A small quantity is also produced by the adrenal glands in both sexes.

The testosterone level in your blood is regulated by the hypothalamus of the brain and pituitary gland. In response to hormonal signals from the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland produces other chemical signals. These then stimulate the gonads to produce and release testosterone.

Once produced, testosterone travels through the blood to be absorbed by your cells, and to perform its many critical functions.
The hypothalamus responds to rising and falling levels of testosterone in the blood and either slows or increases the production of testosterone as needed.

Both men and women need and make testosterone.

Understanding How Testosterone Affects Men

Testosterone is the most important male hormone. It affects everything in men from sperm production to libido. Male fetuses begin to produce testosterone in the womb, and testosterone levels increase throughout early life. In men they rise dramatically during puberty, peak during the late teen years, and then level off in the 20s. After age 35 or so, a man’s testosterone levels start to decrease regularly every year. Throughout a man’s life his testosterone levels impact:

  • Strength and stamina
  • Muscle tone and bone density
  • Sex drive and sexual performance
  • Fertility
  • Cognition and mood states

Understanding How Testosterone Affects Women

While testosterone is a vital male hormone, women need and produce testosterone as well. A woman’s body makes only a fraction – about 1/10th to 1/20th — of the amount men do. However, it still plays an essential role for females.

In women, testosterone plays an important role in:

  • bone health
  • breast health
  • fertility
  • sex drive
  • menstrual health
  • vaginal health

Just as in men, women lose testosterone as they age. In fact, recent studies have shown that it is the loss of testosterone, and not estrogen, that accounts for most of the debilitating symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats, that we usually associate with menopause.

Your levels of testosterone tend to decrease as you age.

What Is a Testosterone Imbalance?

Hormones such as testosterone are your body’s chemical messengers. They stimulate or regulate all of the normal functions of your body. As such, they all need to exist in a proper balance, so that your body can operate in harmony. A hormone imbalance can occur in either direction. There are conditions that can cause your body to make too much, or too little testosterone.

In either case you are considered to have a “testosterone imbalance.” Each condition causes its own set of problems, and has its own unique kinds of treatments.

What Happens If I Have Too Much Testosterone?

Men and women can both have high testosterone, or a condition known as Trusted sourceHypogonadism and HypergonadismConcilioGo to sourcehypergonadism . It is far less common than low testosterone, and is usually caused by a disease state such as damage to, or a tumor of the adrenal glands. Men who have abused anabolic steroids to build strength and muscle, often experience the symptoms of high testosterone.

The signs and symptoms of high testosterone in men include:

  • Early puberty, in young men
  • A decreased sperm count
  • Acne
  • High libido
  • Excessive “hairiness”
  • High blood pressure
  • High red blood cell count
  • Increased risk-taking behaviors
  • Aggression

In woman, signs of too much testosterone include:

  • Excess body hair, specifically facial hair
  • Hair loss
  • Acne
  • Enlarged clitoris
  • Decreased breast size
  • Deepening of the voice
  • Increased muscle mass

What Happens if I Have Too Little Testosterone?

Since we know that testosterone levels decrease in both men and women as they age, too little testosterone, is much more common than too much. Low testosterone, or a testosterone deficiency, is when the body isn’t able to make enough testosterone to keep it above normal levels. Symptoms of low testosterone include:

  • Low energy
  • Weight gain, particularly increased belly fat
  • Irritability
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Loss of libido or other sexual performance issues

You can have too much or too little testosterone, but too little, or “low testosterone” is far more common.

What Are the Normal or Average Testosterone Levels in Men and Women?

Testosterone exists in your body in two ways, “bound” testosterone which is testosterone that is tied to proteins, or “free testosterone,” which is the level of testosterone that is freely flowing in your blood stream. When doctors are evaluating your testosterone levels to diagnose low testosterone, they usually look at your total testosterone level.

The following chart illustrates the normal total testosterone levels for men and women by “Tanner Stage” and age. The Tanner Scale breaks down the observable signs of puberty into 5 stages, running from Stage I from about age 10 to Stage V at 15 for boys, and about age 8 to 15 for girls.

 

Tanner Stage Male Testosterone (ng/dL) Female Testosterone (ng/dL)
I <3 <3−6
II <3−432 <3−10
III 65−778 <3−24
IV 180−763 <3-27
V 188−882 5−38
Adult Male >18 y: 264-916
Adult Female 20 to 49 y: 8−48

Understanding Low Testosterone Levels

If you have lower than normal testosterone levels per the chart above, it does not mean that you will necessarily be suffering from low testosterone. Everybody is different, and what may be a “normal” level for one person, may be low for another. The above normal levels are considered guidelines. If you fall below the normal range, your doctor will have to take other things into account. Your age, weight, symptoms and lifestyle, all need to be considered, before offering a diagnoses of low testosterone, and possibly recommending treatments.

How Do We Test for Testosterone Levels?

If your doctor suspects that you have low testosterone, he or she will most likely run a blood test for your total testosterone. The total testosterone test is a simple blood test, usually taken in the morning, when testosterone levels are at their highest.

Is a Physical Examination Part of Testing for Low Testosterone?

Yes, absolutely. A medical history, a physical exam, and a thorough evaluation of your symptoms are necessary, before a proper diagnosis of low testosterone can be made. If your lab work, and the results of your physical exam indicate that you do indeed have Low-T, you may be a candidate for testosterone replacement therapy.

Testosterone Replacement Therapy

As the name implies, testosterone replacement therapy can give you back what time and nature take away. Testosterone replacement therapy is usually prescribed as a course of daily injections, usually for six month initially.
The benefits of testosterone replacement therapy include:

  • Increased strength and stamina
  • Improved sexual function and increased sex drive
  • Fat loss and improved muscle tone
  • Improved cognition
  • Improved mood

Testosterone replacement therapy can effectively treat testosterone imbalances or low testosterone.

After Testosterone Treatment

After your initial run of testosterone replacement therapy, you will be reevaluated to determine the next steps. You may need to continue, or simply have to implement a regimen of dietary, exercise, and other lifestyle changes, designed to help you keep the progress and improvements that were made while you were taking daily testosterone injections.
Now that you know a little bit more about why you need testosterone, and what can happen if you have low testosterone, why not take the first step to feeling younger and stronger and contact us today, and see if you may be a candidate for testosterone replacement therapy.