What is Testosterone?
What is testosterone? Testosterone is the main male sex hormone and by far the most powerful anabolic steroid present in men. In men, testosterone plays a crucial role in the construction of male reproductive organs including testes and prostate and also promoting secondary sex characteristics like increased bone and muscle mass, and increased body hair. In women, testosterone is important for the functioning of the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes.
As we age, our testosterone levels tend to decline slightly, sometimes in men and often in women. Ageing and other factors such as disease, accident, emotional stress, or chronic illness can affect hormone levels, resulting in fluctuations in our levels. Hormone levels may drop below the critical levels that promote robust sexual function, weight loss and muscle growth. Such a decline in testosterone level is called hypogonadism and it can be caused by various factors.
One of the most common causes for hypogonadism is reduced production of testosterone by the pituitary gland. This leads to decreased levels of gonadotropin, which stimulates testosterone production in men and ovulation in women. A decrease in gonadotropin levels may also result from exposure to certain diseases and conditions, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. Excessive use of oral contraceptives can also lead to reduced levels of circulating estradiol.
Theories suggest that some diseases and conditions lead to the decreased production of testosterone levels at the pituitary gland. Hypogonadism may be caused by tumors on the pituitary gland’s testicles, by infections or lesions in the pituitary gland, by deficiencies of the vitamin D and / or phosphorus, by the enzyme aromatase, or by deficiencies of thiamine, iodine, or niacin. Oestrogen, the hormone responsible for sexual development, is produced by the ovary and the adrenal glands. Testosterone, which is responsible for the muscle growth and strength, is produced by the testicular gland. In late-onset hypogonadism, production of testosterone decreases because of insufficient levels of the hormone in the blood stream.
Testosterone deficiencies are increasingly seen among the male population, particularly those aged 45 and above. Testosterone production slows down with age, so the low testosterone level is not likely to be the cause of symptoms. Other possible causes for this testosterone imbalance include cryptorchidism, hypogonadism and congenital hormonal disorders. The symptoms themselves may be very subtle, so they often go unnoticed unless they cause other problems, such as acne, excess facial hair, excess body fat, high cholesterol and increased risk of diabetes.
The pituitary gland produces the principal component of testosterone, estradiol, the main metabolite of the hormone. When there is a decrease in the level of estradiol the result is a testosterone deficiency, and symptoms include decreased sexual desire, decreased sperm count, lack of muscle mass and erectile dysfunction. Hypogonadism is a condition that results when the pituitary function is reduced. It normally causes sexual dysfunction and impairs the ability to achieve orgasm. Oestrodiol can also be produced by the human pituitary gland, but this is only during the process of puberty, so it is not clear how much testosterone the pituitary produces in this process.
The third type of hypogonadism is hypocalcemia, a condition that is caused by low levels of testosterone. This condition affects body components other than the hormone, such as calcium, protein and water levels, which are controlled by steroid hormones. Hypocalcemia results in low bone density, decreased muscle strength, decreased fat distribution, decreased libido and erectile dysfunction. Blood tests show low levels of testosterone and normal calcium, protein and water levels.
With the recent surge of testosterone production in modern society, it is easy to see how the condition came about. Testosterone helps to control many aspects of adulthood, including sexual interest, aggression and muscle strength. In modern societies, where people are constantly at risk of physical injury, the need for testosterone production is even greater. With society placing such an emphasis on muscle mass and physical power, it is no wonder that athletes like wrestling and boxing have developed an intense desire for testosterone. If testosterone production is impaired in men or women with certain disorders, they could face health problems and perhaps even career challenges.