Hypogonadism – Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Recommended by Dr. Michael White, Updated on October 25th, 2018
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Hypogonadism is a medical term for a defect of the reproductive system which results in lack of function of the gonads (ovaries or testes).

Hypogonadism may occur if the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis is interrupted at any level. Hypergonadotropic hypogonadism (primary hypogonadism) results if the gonad does not produce the amount of steroid sufficient to suppress secretion of LH and FSH at normal levels. Hypogonadism resulting from defects of the gonads is traditionally referred to as primary hypogonadism. Examples include Klinefelter syndrome and Turner syndrome. Hypogonadism resulting from hypothalamic or pituitary defects are termed secondary hypogonadism or central hypogonadism (referring to the central nervous system). Hypogonadism can affect men of any age, from fetal development, through puberty and adulthood. Hypogonadism is one of the main causes of male infertility. It is estimated that 13 million men in the United States alone are affected by hypogonadism. Hypogonadism is caused by deficient testosterone secretion by the testes. The two basic types of male hypogonadism are Primary and Secondary.

Hypogonadism Primary, also known as primary testicular failure, originates from an abnormality in the testicles. Hypogonadism may be induced by chronic use of anabolic/androgenic steroids (AAS). The Secondary type of hypogonadism is caused by defects in the pituitary gland connected to the brain that controls hormone production. If chemical messages from the pituitary gland to the testicles aren't sent, impaired testicular function occurs. This condition can be a result from defects in development of the pituitary gland, certain inflammatory diseases, and the use of certain drugs used in the treatment of psychiatric disorders and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Mental and emotional changes can also accompany hypogonadism. As testosterone decreases, some men may experience signs and symptoms similar to those of menopause in women. These may include hot flashes, decreased drive, irritability, depression and fatigue.

Hypogonadism is most often treated by replacement of the appropriate hormones.

Gonadotropin or GnRH replacement is offered to the patient when fertility is desired. Oral testosterone is no longer used in the U.S. because it is broken down in the liver and rendered inactive. In boys, testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) can stimulate puberty and the development of secondary characteristics, such as increased muscle mass, beard and pubic hair growth. Also available is a topical 1% testosterone gel. It is applied once daily to clean, dry skin of the shoulders, upper arms, or abdomen. Another alternative is testosterone patches. The testosterone may be mixed with the adhesive with a new patch applied daily to a different site; this system leaves a sticky residue but causes little skin irritation. Injections of pituitary hormone may be used to help male patients produce sperm. In others, surgery and radiation therapy may be needed. In adult men, TRT can restore function and muscle strength and prevent bone loss.

Treatment for Hypogonadism

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Hypogonadism - Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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