Your hormones are closely related to many functions that keep you healthy everyday. A hormonal imbalance in men can be caused by different issues, and it can lead to a wide range of symptoms that can interfere with your daily life.
Read on to learn more about hormonal imbalance in men, its symptoms, tests, and treatment.
What causes hormonal imbalance in males?
Testosterone is the main male hormone, and as such, it’s responsible for most cases of hormonal imbalances in men. Testosterone levels naturally fluctuate throughout a man’s life, but abnormal levels of this hormone can lead to signs of male hormone imbalance.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, male hypogonadism is a condition that occurs when your testicles can’t produce enough testosterone. The Leydig cells are a type of cell inside the testicles which normally produce testosterone, but hormonal changes in men can lead to a decreased function.
There are different causes of male hypogonadism, including:
Primary male hypogonadism
This happens when a malfunction in your testicles prevents them from working properly, which leads to a lower production of testosterone and sperm cells. In primary hypogonadism, a gland called the pituitary gland produces excessive amounts of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which are hormones known as gonadotropins.
Under normal circumstances, elevated levels of LH and FSH tell your testicles to produce more testosterone and sperm. But if your testicular tissue has been damaged or is missing, it won’t be able to carry out this function.
Some of the causes of primary male hypogonadism include:
- Undescended testicles, or cryptorchidism
- Congenital absence of testicles, or anorchia
- Genetic conditions, such as Klinefelter or Noonan syndrome
- Muscular diseases, such as myotonic dystrophy
- Injury or removal of the testicles
- Chemotherapy or radiotherapy affecting testicular tissue
- Certain tumors
- Inflammation of one or both testicles, or orchitis
- Use of certain medications, such as steroids
Secondary male hypogonadism
Second male hypogonadism, on the other hand, affects your hypothalamus or pituitary gland. This male hormonal cycle alteration is characterized by low levels of LH and FSH, and it can also be referred to as hypogonadotropic hypogonadism. As a result of low levels of LH and FSH, males with this condition also have low levels of testosterone and low sperm counts.
Secondary male hypogonadism can have different causes, including:
- Congenital diseases, such as isolated hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, Kallmann syndrome, and Prader-Willi syndrome
- Hemochromatosis or iron overload
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Liver cirrhosis or failure
- Kidney failure
- Brain or head injury
- Alcohol use disorder
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Poorly managed diabetes
- Taking certain medications, such as estrogens, some psychoactive drugs, and opioids, among others
Elevated testosterone levels in men
Most cases of hormonal male imbalance are caused by low testosterone; however, some men can suffer the effects of having too much testosterone. According to Harvard Medical School, having elevated testosterone isn’t a common problem, but it can still happen in some cases.
The symptoms of chemical imbalances caused by high testosterone in men can include:
- Low sperm counts
- Testicle shrinking
- Erectile dysfunction
- Fluid retention
- Enlarged prostate
- Difficulty urinating
- Heart muscle damage
- Heart disease
- Weight gain
- High blood pressure
- Elevated cholesterol levels
- Trouble sleeping
- Increased risk of blood clots
- Increased muscle mass
- Aggressive behavior
- Mood changes
- Impaired ability to make decisions
Most cases of high testosterone in men are caused by abusing certain medications, such as anabolic steroids, testosterone, or other synthetic hormones.
Hormonal imbalance in men symptoms
The symptoms of male hypogonadism can be present from an early age, even during fetal development or early infancy. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of hormonal imbalance in male adults can include:
- Low sex drive
- Decreased energy
- Depression or mood changes
- Erectile dysfunction
- Decreased muscle mass
- Development of gynecomastia or male breast tissue
- Decreased hair growth in your face and/or body
- Loss of bone mass leading to osteoporosis
Male hypogonadism in adults can cause symptoms that are somewhat similar to female menopause symptoms, such as having trouble concentrating or experiencing hot flashes.
Hormone imbalance in male teenagers and children
Male hormonal imbalance symptoms in children and teenagers are different from those found in adults. The symptoms of male hormonal imbalance in children will largely depend on the underlying cause of the problem and the severity of the condition.
Chemical imbalance symptoms in male children and teenagers can include:
- Female or ambiguous external genitals
- Underdeveloped male genitals
- Decreased muscle mass development in teenagers
- Impaired deepening of the voice in teenagers
- Decreased facial and body hair growth in teenagers
- Impaired growth of the penis and testicles in teenagers
- Arms and legs that are excessively long in comparison to the trunk
- Development of male breast tissue or gynecomastia
Treatment of male hormonal imbalance
Learning how to balance male hormones depends on the type of imbalance and what’s causing it. If your doctor suspects that you have any type of hormonal imbalance, they’ll probably order certain tests to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other possibilities. According to MedlinePlus, these blood tests can include:
- Total testosterone testing
- Free testosterone testing
- Bioavailable testosterone testing
Your treatment will depend on the results of these tests. Male hypogonadism is usually treated with testosterone replacement; however, you’ll also need to treat any underlying conditions that led to the problem.
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Low Testosterone (Male Hypogonadism) - my.clevelandclinic.org
Testosterone — What It Does And Doesn’t Do - health.harvard.edu
Male hypogonadism - mayoclinic.org
Testosterone Levels Test - medlineplus.gov