Androgens are a group of related steroid sex hormones. Testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) are two of the more potent male sex hormones. Their less potent cousins are androstenedione and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Androgens are produced by the male testes, the female ovaries, and the adrenal glands.
Androgens bind to receptors on the cell membrane or pass through the membrane to bind to receptors inside the cell. When androgens bind to receptors at the cell membrane, they cause changes in the cell, encouraging it to enter a growth phase. Androgens that bind to receptors inside the cell attach directly to DNA binding sites and activate genes to produce proteins.
Androgens control the growth and development of male sex organs, male secondary sex characteristics, puberty timing, and male behaviors. Androgens also influence the female sex drive.
Androgen deficiency can cause a variety of symptoms, including decreased sex drive and changes in body composition.
The endocrine system is one of the most complex systems in the body and is closely linked with another complex system, the nervous system. Hormones produced in the endocrine system are chemical messengers that control more long-term processes in the body, whereas the nervous system is more involved in minute-to-minute adjustments.
Hormones are produced by an endocrine gland, travel through the bloodstream, and affect distant organs. These effects come about when hormones bind to receptors on cell membranes or inside cells.
The hypothalamus (a part of the brain) releases gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which stimulates the pituitary gland to release follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). LH stimulates the Leydig cells in the testes to produce testosterone, and FSH stimulates the Sertoli cells in the testes to help increase testosterone levels and produce sperm. A small amount of testosterone is also produced by the adrenal glands. These small glands sit above the kidneys and release testosterone in both men and women.
Sex hormones can be converted into other forms by enzymes. DHEA is converted to androstenedione, which is then converted to testosterone or estrone. Testosterone is converted to DHT or estradiol. In many cases, these enzymes can run in reverse as well, to keep finely tuned levels of each sex hormone.
Androgens, especially testosterone, have many roles in the male body, including:
In women, testosterone helps maintain and support:
Testosterone has both anabolic and androgenic effects in the male, causing tissue growth and the development of secondary sex organs. Low or high levels of testosterone can have a significant effect on your body.
Testosterone production declines by about 1% each year after the age of 30, leaving many men with the symptoms associated with low testosterone levels.
The FDA and the American Urological Association have endorsed testosterone supplementation for medical and genetic conditions that result in symptomatic low testosterone levels.
Symptomatic low testosterone levels imply the two steps men must take to identify and treat low testosterone levels: recognize the symptoms of low testosterone and have their testosterone levels checked.
Symptoms of low testosterone levels might include:
The next step is to have your testosterone level checked. In most cases, two separate testosterone levels are obtained, with both levels taken before noon, as testosterone levels naturally decrease later in the day. Normal testosterone levels for adult males range between 280 and 1,100 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) and between 15 and 70 ng/dL for adult females. Normal lab values can differ between labs.
Men with symptoms associated with low testosterone levels and a documented low testosterone level should discuss testosterone replacement therapy with their healthcare provider.
For example, after completing your history forms and blood work, you can schedule a convenient online appointment with an Invigor Medical healthcare provider to discuss your lab results and potential treatment options.
Testosterone replacement therapy involves supplementing your body’s natural testosterone production to bring your hormone levels back into the normal range and improve symptoms associated with decreased testosterone levels.
While testosterone replacement therapy is an important treatment option for men with androgen deficiency, there are steps men can take to improve their overall health and naturally boost their testosterone levels.
Healthy lifestyle choices that may boost testosterone levels:
Many men are tempted to self-prescribe testosterone without verifying that the symptoms they are experiencing are secondary to low testosterone levels and that their testosterone levels are indeed low. There are many herbal products and testosterone boosters available to consumers, especially online. Unfortunately, many of these products are not FDA regulated, may contain harmful ingredients, and lack scientific support.
While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.