The Ultimate Guide to Healthy Sexuality

1.jpgTestosterones are a type of male hormones known as androgens, which are vital for sexual and reproductive development. While women do produce some testosterone, the National Institutes of Health hold it as the most important hormone for men.

It’s not only involved in developing male sex organs before birth, but plays a key role in the secondary sex characteristics that occur during puberty, including deepening voice, facial and body hair growth, and an increase in testes and penis size. Testosterones regulate the sex drive, sperm production, fat distribution, red cell production, and the maintenance of muscle strength and mass.

In women testosterone is used in a smaller way. While women do still need it, they have a higher reliance on other hormones. It has much less influence on body growth, but it still helps with the maintenance of body mass and muscles, and the regulation of sex drives, and of red cell production.

Both sexes benefit from testosterone, and thats why its important that its properly regulated. Often during the early 30’s, the production of testosterone will decrease. However, there are cases where the body produces either too much or too little for our bodies regular needs. Once again, both cases can occur in women and men, so it’s important to speak with your doctor on the subject. You should be prepared to open up a dialogue with a health professional if you see any of the signs of symptoms below in your life.

How does High Testosterone Affect the Body?

It’s rare to find a case of high testosterone. Hyperthyroidism, adrenal tumors and precocious puberty are possible and do cause a large spike in testosterone production, but none of these cases are regular occurrences. More often, those with high testosterone production are dealing with the side effects of steroid abuse, most often those are members of the athletic community.

Depression:

Often depression is thought of as extreme sad feelings, but it’s more like extreme dejection and despondency. It’s far more than just being sad. Depression will make an individual feel isolated, hopeless, and cause them to lose interested in many things they used to enjoy, such as hobbies or social interaction. High testosterone levels in those over 35 are often linked to depression, especially for women. This is caused by the body attempting to regulate itself through this large hormonal imbalance.

Aggression:

Though this is most common in men, anyone who has a higher testosterone level will often respond to a situation in a hostile manner. These individuals could become violent in extreme cases, and often may have short tempers or overreact to annoyances or inconveniences.

Decrease Testicular Size/Sperm Count:

One of the reasons for this is that the excess testosterone will actually be converted into estrogen. This causes the male reproductive organs to produce less sperm. If you notice that there is a significant change in the size of your testicals then you should speak with your doctor right away.

Frequent and Major Mood Swings:

Mood swings themselves are pretty normal. It’s something that happens and no one should feel ashamed for it when it does. The keys in this case is that the swings are major and frequent. Most often a mood swing means going between two emotions in a short time, but high testosterone can cause this to be several emotions in the range of a minute. One second they may be happy, then suddenly they become sad, then shortly after they can become enraged. They can become suddenly impulsive, and this will cause them to start talking to themselves then and there. This can all play a big role in their aggression as well.

Lowered Libido:

This is a symptom for higher and lower testosterone, however in higher it is often related to some of the things above. Many believe higher testosterone would raise the sex drive and libido, however it actually can lower it. You mood will greatly affect your libido, so if you’re going through some major mood swings then your sex life may not be very active.

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What are the Effects of Low Testosterone?

Your body will naturally lower how much testosterone it produces to meet your needs as you age. Though we often don’t feel the effects of this until we’re in our 60’s, the average start for the decreasing process is age 30. Having low testosterone is far more common than having high testosterone, however they do have some similarities when you look at their signs and symptoms.

Erectile Dysfunction:

Erectile dysfunction is the inability of a man to maintain an erection sufficient enough for sexual activity. It’s important to note that it is rare for low testosterone to be the sole cause of erectile dysfunction and is usually in conjunction with other medical conditions, such as emotional strain, diabetes, physical conditions or even substance abuse. Know that, it is able to cause problems with sex organs. Both your sex driving and ability to maintain an erection depend on testosterone. It helps to stimulate the receptors in the brain, as well as produce the nitric oxide in male sex organs.

Perimenopause:

Also known as early menopause, this is the time from before and, up to a year, after the final menstrual period for women. The amount of testosterone in a woman decreases during menopause. However, low levels of testosterone can cause perimenopause to occur even earlier begin to show menopausal symptoms, such as lowered libido, fatigue, irregular periods, etc.

Hair Growth and Loss:

The specific testosterone involved in hair loss is known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT), made by an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase. It’s in the skin and allows hair to grow in a given place. DHT will be distributed different as you age, which means that you aren’t just balding, but likely your chest hair, or facial hair, or arm hair is increasing. When people joke about their hair moving from their head to their back, that really is what happened.

Increased Body Fat and Loss of Muscle Mass:

Your muscle mass will be greatly affected by testosterone. This means that if you have less testosterone then you likely will have less muscle mass. This does not necessarily mean a loss of strength or function, but it can mean an increase in overall body fat. Men will eventually see their testosterone decline into a state of “adrenopause” where they have a partial androgen deficiency. Testosterone plays a vital role in how our bodies balance glucose, insulin, and fat metabolism.

Men may experience gynecomastia, which is when the breast tissue swells because of an imbalance in the estrogen and testosterone levels. Men will often have swollen breast gland tissues, they’ll be tender, and there may even be discharge from one or both of the nipples. Gynecomastia can affect one or both breasts, sometimes unevenly.

Osteoporosis:

Osteoporosis is a medical condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue, typically as a result of hormonal changes, or deficiency of calcium or vitamin D. Due to testosterone being a part of maintaining the density and mass of bones this is a problem not just for women, but for men with low testosterone. Bones from an individual with this are much easier to break.

What is Hypogonadism?

This condition is when the body is unable to produce enough testosterone. This is different from lower testosterone, as its either from birth or a result of infection or injury. The symptoms above are not necessarily signs of hypogonadism. It is important that we understand the signs for it that are in all stages of life:

In infants:

  • Ambiguous genitalia
  • Female genitals on a genetically male child
  • Underdeveloped male genitalia

In boys around the age of puberty:

  • Lacking in muscle mass development
  • No voice changes
  • Lack of facial and body hair
  • A slow increase in the testicle and penis size
  • Arms and legs that grow out of proportion to the rest of the body

In men after puberty:

  • Infertility
  • A low libido
  • Erectile dysfunction (ED)
  • Lacking in facial or body hair
  • The growth of the breast tissue

Men should also expect the following symptoms, as testosterone levels will drop with age:

  • Fatigue
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Trouble concentrating
  • A change in sleep patterns

What Happens in Testosterone Replacement Therapy?

Sometimes a doctor will confirm that a patient has tested for abnormally low levels of testosterone, in which case they may suggest treatment. This is called testosterone replacement therapy, and some of the forms include:

  • Transdermal (Aka “Skin Patch”): Applied once a day, these are patches not dissimilar to bandages that are worn on the upper body or arms. The patches contain the the patient’s prescription, which is then absorbed through the skin in a steady and controlled manner.
  • Mouth Patch: These act in the same way as the skin patches, and they are placed on the upper gums, above the incisors, and will need to be applied twice a day.
  • Gels: These are rubbed on as a lotion to be absorbed by the skin, typically applied once a day.
  • Injections/Implants: As implied, these treatments are injected directly into the bloodstream, slowly absorbing the testosterone into the system.
  • Pills: These can be problematic for your liver. It is not recommended to use this treatment outside of uncontrolled variables, such as allergic reactions to other treatments.

Testosterone replacement therapy does come with risks. The immediate side effects are normally mild, things like acne or irregular breathing patterns while sleeping. The big risks come with the long term effects. The testosterone addition can cause problems with the cardiovascular system, leading to heart attack or stroke, and, though the research hasn’t shown this yet, it’s thought that the replacement therapy might be stimulating prostate cancer cells, causing them to grow more. Whatever you wish to do, you should talk with your doctor first. You speak with them about getting your testosterone levels tested, and then determine what the risks are for you and what the next steps, if any, are that you should take.

As well, you should look at testosterone replacement therapy with a more realistic expectation. The therapy isn’t a magical cure for getting older, and if your symptoms are just a part of the aging process then most doctors will advise against you receiving it.

 

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