Testosterone-a steroid hormone in both men and women
While most commonly associated with male physical and functional characteristics, the hormone testosterone is present at much smaller levels in females as well. There, as it does in males, the hormone produces sex drive and also helps regulate menstrual periods. Excessive testosterone in females can also cause a deepening of voice and the growth of facial hair.
But yes, testosterone is primarily a male hormone. Most is manufactured in the testes and the male hormone level is regulated by signals from the pituitary gland located at the base of the brain. If the testosterone level drops low, the pituitary releases a luteinizing hormone that causes the testes to increase testosterone production. The pituitary gland is, in turn, stimulated by the hypothalamus which detects the testosterone level and releases the gonadotropic-releasing hormone to the pituitary. Thus, a continuous relationship exists as the hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular axis.
Testosterone levels can be reduced for several reasons. Aging often brings the level down as will Zinc deficiency. An external stimulus such as loss of domination or status in men can also reduce the level.
While we mostly hear about failure of male sex drive and erectile dysfunction as a result of low testosterone levels, there are other problems that result from lack of that hormone. These include the possibility of osteoporosis, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol as well as low red blood cell reproduction. Deficiency can also result in cardiovascular disease (CVD) and heart attack. Higher than normal testosterone levels can induce high risk behavior, aggressiveness, and even smoking. Therefore treatment for deficiency in this important androgen hormone should be carefully monitored. Other effects of low testosterone can be development of type 2 diabetes an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, obesity and depression. There is also statistical evidence of early mortality.
In females, testosterone is generated at much lower levels in the adrenal gland and in the ovaries. Female testosterone deficiency has been known to contribute to breast cancer and irregular menstruation as well as CVD. Oddly over-treatment of the deficiency through use of the drug Estratest, a mix of estrogen and methyltestosterone can also increase the risk of breast cancer.
Testosterone and other anabolic steroids also have often been used by athletes to enhance muscle development and endurance. However, the tendency toward excessive use of such systemic additives has led to intra sport regulation and/or prohibition of such steroid use. Such abuse has been known to contribute to increases in aggressive behavior. Tests for steroid levels are usually based on required urine samples from athletes.
Treatment for testosterone deficiency may include direct injection, transdermal patches , subcutaneous pellets, gels or oral therapy. Side effects are not major and include oily skin or slight acne. However caution is advised if there is any possibility of prostate cancer in male patients. Testosterone therapy can accelerate prostate cancer, and all males should be tested for that condition with a rectal examination and administration of prostate specific antigen (PSA) before therapy begins. Some male patients have complained of breast development but this can be offset by the use of parallel medication that will reduce sex hormone binding globulin.
All in all, treatment for testosterone deficiency in males has been carried out with a good safety record for more than sixty years.