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Testosterone—The Universal Hormone Function, Deficiency, and Treatment

Medically Reviewed by

Often referred to as the “male” hormone, testosterone is actually present in both sexes, for very important reasons.

These are chemical messengers that are produced primarily in the testes of males, and in the ovaries of females, that regulate many functions within the body.

Testosterone is referred to as an “androgen” hormone because it is associated with males and male characteristics.

Testosterone for Development

Although both genders will produce testosterone, typically male children, as they develop in the womb will create much higher levels of testosterone than females, masculinizing the brain.

This will affect future physical characteristics and psychosocial behaviors, such as aggression and competitiveness.

As males age, and enter adolescence, testosterone is responsible for a number of changes including, lowering of the voice, increasing the sex drive, stimulating pubic and facial hair growth, and developing muscles and facial features, essential for adult males to maintain hormone levels.[5]

Testosterone for Sex and Reproduction

Produced primarily in the testicles of males, and the ovaries of females, testosterone plays a critical role in sexual function and reproduction as it supports the libido, facilitates the production of sperm in men, and may actually promote follicle growth in women, (small structures that contain and ultimately release eggs from the ovaries).

The androgen increases libido in both sexes and rises in females at the time of ovulation. [2]

It can also gradually increase the time between menstrual periods for women and eventually suppress menstruation altogether.

Testosterone is produced in the adrenal glands of both sexes, in small amounts as well, functioning as a vital sex hormone alongside being one of the male sex hormones.

Testosterone, Bones, Body Composition, and Strength

As men enter young adulthood, testosterone helps maintain optimal muscle mass and bone mineral density. [1]

Lean muscle mass helps the body burn fat efficiently and high testosterone levels assist in distributing fatty tissue evenly throughout the torso, arms, and legs, which could influence weight gain and the development of facial and body hair.

Testosterone and Other Health Benefits, Both Physical and Emotional

Studies indicate that testosterone is not just for strength and sexual function either.

It has the ability to help produce testosterone efficiently, contributing to red blood cell production, thereby modulating mood by reducing levels of anger and irritability and promoting an overall feeling of well-being.[3]

Testosterone Deficiency

Symptoms of low testosterone levels in both sexes vary and may be difficult to diagnose as they sometimes mimic other medical conditions.

Low testosterone in men may include:

Low testosterone in women may include:

Both sexes may experience:

Testosterone Levels Decrease

In males, lower testosterone levels decrease by about 1 percent annually each year after about age 25.

Women slowly lose testosterone throughout life and will only have about half of the amount they once had in their 20s, by the time they reach menopause.

Testosterone Treatment

True testosterone deficiency may be treated in several different ways:

  • Topical gels
  • Patches
  • Injectable testosterone
  • Implantable testosterone

While both sexes may take testosterone replacement therapy to improve symptoms, women may need additional estrogen therapy to avoid an overall hormonal imbalance.

Testosterone Replacement Therapy Side Effects

Side effects of testosterone therapy may include a variety of symptoms while addressing decreased testosterone levels is essential for overall health:

  • Acne
  • Breast tenderness
  • Increase in red blood cells
  • Infertility
  • Reduction in testicle size
  • Swelling of lower extremities

While statistically one in four men over the age of 30 are affected by low testosterone, and as many as 15 million U.S. women are suspected of androgen deficiency, many suffer in silence or go undiagnosed and untreated altogether.

Some men and women accept symptoms as simply part of the aging process, while others, uncomfortable with cultural or social ideas surrounding sexual health and behavior choose not to explore possible causes or treatments for lack of libido or sexual dissatisfaction.[4]

Finding the balance that's right for you and your partner is the key to maintaining overall good health and happiness in every season of life.


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