Testosterone is one of the most important hormones in the human body which plays an important role in male health, being the prime sex hormone. Low levels of testosterone can be caused by a variety of physiological anomalies like hypogonadism and zinc deficiency. Let us understand the role of testosterone in the human body and identify the causative agents that may lead to a drop in the concentration of this vital hormone.
Did You Know?
Drop in the levels of testosterone causes problems in cognitive processes, depression, sleep disorders, fatigue, decrease in libido and erectile dysfunction in men. It is also known to cause excessive fat accumulation.
Testosterone is a key steroid hormone produced in the body, which plays an important role in many fundamental physical processes. Hormones are essentially chemical signaling molecules, that activate certain processes in the body, through a receptor mechanism.
A signaling molecule like testosterone, binds with the various chemical receptors in the body, to trigger various bodily processes. It is the hormone that initiates most of the sexual developmental processes in men and also contributes to other vital processes. Hence it is also known as the male sex hormone as it manifests all the typical male qualities and physical processes.
Low Testosterone Causes
Normal levels of this hormone vary from 300 to 1200 nanograms per deciliter in men. In women, the normal range varies from 30 to 95 nanograms per deciliter. The level is usually highest in the morning and decreases as the day progresses. Lowering of testosterone levels (less than 300 nanograms per deciliter) may be caused by many factors like age, physiology, diet, medical history and lifestyle. Here are the prime causes.
One of the major reasons behind the lowering of testosterone in blood, has been observed to be aging. Although there are exceptions, mostly after a man crosses forty years of age, the production of testosterone, has been known to go down at a rate of 1% to 2% every year. This is known to be the beginning of andropause (male menopause), which is characterized by very gradual decrease in testosterone levels, ultimately leading to ceasing of sexual and reproductive ability. The rate of progression and conclusion of andropause varies a lot, depending on the health of the individual. In women too, the levels of testosterone drop down significantly after menopause.
The other major reason for low testosterone levels is hypogonadism. It may be a congenital (pre-birth development) disorder or an acquired one. Both differ, depending upon the source of the abnormality. It is primary hypogonadism, if the reason for the low testosterone is the development of abnormality in the testicular or ovarian production mechanism. The secondary type of hypogonadism is caused by an abnormality in the pituitary gland in the brain, which indirectly controls the production of testosterone. Tertiary hypogonadism is caused by problems in the functioning of the hypothalamus.
Type 2 Diabetes
There are other diseases which cause a decrease in testosterone levels which includes type 2 diabetes. Various studies conducted around the world have confirmed the strong correlation between diabetes and testosterone depletion.
Research has revealed a connection between obesity and low testosterone. Fat cells are involved in the conversion of testosterone into estrogen in men, which plays the role of maintaining bone density. A strong correlation has been found between obesity in men and lowering of testosterone levels, as more the number of fat cells, greater is the rate of testosterone conversion into estrogen.
Severe to moderate deficiency of zinc for prolonged periods may cause the onset of hypogonadism. As a result, the testosterone levels in the body may deplete severely.
Depleting layers of testosterone, may also be a result of the onset of testicular cancer, which jeopardizes the reproductive mechanism in a man. Exposure to chemotherapy and radiation treatment increases the risk of disrupted testosterone production in the testes. Also, physical damage to the testes may also cause lowering in levels of the hormone.
Prescription and Recreational Drugs
Consumption of drugs like glucocorticoids, used in the treatment of acute allergic disorders and ketoconazole, used in the treatment of skin infections have been known to indirectly cause a decrease in testosterone. Drugs like opium, adversely affect many physical processes of the body, including testosterone production.
About Testosterone Synthesis
Testosterone secretion timing and amount is regulated by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland in the brain through a complex signaling mechanism. It is also produced in the female body but in comparatively lesser amounts. The equivalent of testosterone is estrogen, the female sex hormone.
In men, the hormone is synthesized from cholesterol by mostly the Leydig cells in the testicle. In females, it is synthesized in the ovaries by thecal cells in very small quantities. In males, testosterone plays the very important role of initiating sperm production in the sertoli cells of the testes. In both men and women, testosterone plays an important role in muscle development and enhancement of bone density.
Hormonal imbalances are caused by a range of problems in the human body. A yearly preventive check up and blood testing can detect any alarming signs of abnormality in advance. Listen to your body carefully and monitor small changes that occur. This goes a long way in detecting such hormonal imbalances, which can then be treated effectively. Regular strength building exercises have been known to stimulate testosterone production. So staying active and exercising may increase your chances of maintaining the testosterone levels naturally.
*Disclaimer: This article is meant for reference purposes and is not a substitute for advice from a certified medical practitioner.