Hypogonadism refers to a condition in which the gonads; the testes in males and ovaries in females, fail to produce sex hormones. Sex hormones play an important role in regulation of menstrual cycle in females and sperm production in males. They are also responsible for control and development of secondary sex characters such as breast development in females and testicular development in males. Hypogonadism is also known as gonad deficiency. Hypogonadism can be of two types:
- Primary hypogonadism: this condition occurs when the sex hormones are not produced due to improper functioning of the gonads or the problem is in the testicles in males and ovaries in females.
- Secondary hypogonadism: secondary or central hypogonadism occurs when the actual problem is in the brain. The improper functioning of hypothalamus and pituitary glands that stimulate or regulate the gonads leads to secondary hypogonadism.
Some of the causes of primary hypogonadism includes:
- Autoimmune disorders
- Genetic disorders
- Exposure to radiation
- Surgery in sex organs
- Undescended testicles
- Certain severe infections
- Hemochromatosis (increased iron in blood)
- Injury to testicles
Some of the causes of secondary hypogonadism includes:
- Pituitary disorders
- Inflammatory diseases
- Brain surgery
- Nutritional deficiencies
- AIDS-autoimmune deficiency syndrome
- Certain medications
Symptoms in males include:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Low or absence of libido (sex drive)
- Loss of body hair
- Abnormal breast growth (gynecomastia)
- Reduced growth of penis and/or testicles
- Decrease in muscle mass
Symptoms in females include:
- Irregular or absent menstrual cycles
- Low or absent libido (sex drive)
- Hair loss
- Slow or underdevelopment of breasts
Diagnosis of hypogonadism is based on:
- Review of signs and symptoms
- Physical examination
- Blood tests or hormone tests
- Genetic studies
- Semen analysis (males)
- Testicular biopsy (males)
- Imaging procedures such as ultrasound, CT, MRI
There are no known preventive measures for hypogonadism. A possible way is to maintain a healthy lifestyle which includes a healthy and nutritious diet, maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, and avoiding alcohol, caffeine and smoking.
Treatment for hypogonadism varies depending mostly on the sex and cause of the disease. The major objective of the treatment is to increase the amount of sex hormones.
- Testosterone (male sex hormone) replacement therapy is used in males to increase the amount of sex hormones or return to normal levels of testosterone.
- Estrogen therapy is used in females in conditions like hysterectomy (removal of uterus).
- Surgical removal or radiation therapy is used in conditions where a tumour is causing the disease.
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