All men undergoing fertility testing will be checked for hormonal imbalances that could be contributing to their infertility. One important hormone necessary for proper sexual functioning in men is testosterone.
When a man is found to have a testosterone deficiency, it can signal a common disorder known as hypogonadism.
What Does Testosterone Do?
Testosterone, often referred to as the male hormone although females do produce small amounts of the hormone as well, is a hormone that is produced in the testicles. It is responsible for the growth and development of the sex and reproductive organs in men.
Additionally, testosterone contributes to the deepening of a man’s voice during puberty, fat distribution, and bone mass. Testosterone also helps to keep a man’s energy levels up as well as encourage his sex drive and fertility.
Much like women, whose production of estrogen and progesterone taper off as they age, testosterone levels begin to decline as a man gets older. These naturally-occurring low testosterone levels can contribute to a decreased sex drive in older men.
Yet, low testosterone levels earlier in life are not natural and can produce many unwanted physical changes, including infertility. A common culprit for these falling testosterone levels: hypogonadism.
What is Hypogonadism?
Thought to be one of the main causes of male fertility problems, hypogonadism occurs in an estimated 13 million men in the United States. However, the exact figure is unknown as less than 10% of those affected will seek treatment for the disorder.
Hypogonadism refers to a lack of production of the gonadotropin hormone, which can occur when the pituitary gland, testicles or hypothalamus has been damaged or affected by disease. Because of the lack of gonadotropins, men with hypogonadism produce insufficient amounts of testosterone.
Deficient testosterone production can happen at any point during a man’s life. In some men, it is a congenital abnormality as the deficiency has been present from birth. For other men, the deficiency does not present itself until the onset of puberty. In some cases, a man may not develop the testosterone disorder until well into adulthood.
Hypogonadism affects a man’s fertility because the lack of testosterone makes it difficult for men to properly produce sperm. Furthermore, a low testosterone level can contribute to a low sex drive as well as erectile dysfunctions.