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The Role of Testosterone

The chemical sex hormone testosterone plays a vital role in many functions of the body. Most people know it as the hormone that controls numerous male sex characteristics, but it is present in both sexes. In men this androgen (male sex hormone) is produced in Leydig cells (cells located in the testicles) and is regulated by the brain and the pituitary gland. In women, it is produced in smaller quantities in many areas: ovaries, adrenal glands, fat cells, and even skin cells. In addition to the changes it makes to sexual characteristics, testosterone has many roles in how our bodies function.

Dr. Mike Kelly and his capable staff have decades of experience serving the Santa Monica, California, area for many urological conditions and can help patients understand the importance of hormonal balance in the body when things affect testosterone levels.

What does testosterone do?

The hormone most linked with sexual activity actually starts developing in the body long before puberty. This starts as soon as seven weeks after conception, and the levels rise during puberty to create many of the changes we associate with maturing. In addition to controlling sperm production and sex drive, testosterone regulates muscle mass, bone mass, fat distribution, and red blood cell production in both men and women. Decreases in testosterone levels start at around 30 and slowly decline over time.

What happens if you have too much?

High levels of testosterone can lead to different issues with men and women. It can be caused by things like tumors, anabolic steroid abuse, or taking supplements to increase testosterone. In men, it can affect mood (depression, anxiety or irritability), changes in blood pressure, body hair, and acne. It may also cause worse conditions such as chest pains, lower levels of good cholesterol (LDLs), abnormal prostate growth, heart attack, and stroke.

In women, it can increase the amount of body hair, increase muscle, cause irregular periods, reduce sex drive, and alter mood. It may also cause women to have a deeper voice, reduce breast size, and decrease fertility.

What happens if you have too little?

Low testosterone (male hypogonadism) can happen slowly over time. After men reach 30, the hormone levels decrease very slowly but can reach low enough levels to affect the body. About 40% of men over 45 are affected by low testosterone. It can also be caused by many other things like alcohol abuse, injuries to the testes, chemotherapy, conditions affecting the pituitary gland, some medications, and cirrhosis of the liver.

In men it can lower the sex drive, cause erectile dysfunction, decrease body hair, increase body fat, cause mild anemia, and create problems with mood, memory, and muscular strength. Osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) and gynecomastia (breast development) are also possible effects of low testosterone.

In women aging can increase the chances of low testosterone as menopause halts production of hormones. Estrogen therapy can also contribute to issues as it lowers testosterone. This can affect sex drive and pleasure, lethargy, depression, and muscle weakness.

Maintaining overall good health includes good hormonal health. If you think you may have problems concerning testosterone levels make an appointment with Dr. Kelly, to get help today.

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