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A Comprehensive Guide to Male Hormones

What You Should Know About Male Hormones

Hormones are crucial messengers in the body, orchestrating a wide range of functions from blood sugar regulation to sleep patterns. Understanding hormonal health is particularly essential for men, not only for managing fertility but also for overall well-being. While testosterone is often spotlighted as the key male hormone, it’s part of a complex network that influences numerous bodily functions.

Exploring the Spectrum of Male Hormones

Testosterone is commonly associated with maintaining masculine characteristics, but it’s just one piece of the hormonal puzzle. This hormone works in concert with others, each playing vital roles in male fertility and general health. Here’s a closer look at these interactions:


Testosterone


Central to male physiology, testosterone supports libido, energy levels, muscle mass, bone density, and the production of red blood cells and sperm. However, its levels and functionality are influenced by various other hormones.


Low levels of testosterone can therefore cause symptoms such as low libido or poor energy levels, loss of muscle bulk, loss of body hair, erectile dysfunction and male infertility. It is usually one or more of these symptoms that causes doctors to check a man’s testosterone levels although it is important to note that other causes (both hormonal and non-hormonal) may underlie all of these symptoms.


Oestrogen


Typically considered a female hormone, men also produce oestrogen in small amounts. It impacts libido, sexual function, and sperm production. Excessive oestrogen, however, can lead to fertility issues and the development of male breast tissue, a condition known as gynecomastia. High levels of oestrogen may be caused by certain medications, obesity or, more rarely, certain tumours.

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Regulation of Male Hormones

The production of male hormones is meticulously controlled by the brain and endocrine system. Several key hormones play a role in this regulatory process:


  • Luteinising Hormone (LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH): Both produced by the pituitary gland, these hormones are essential in both sexes. In men, FSH is involved in sperm production, while LH encourages testosterone production.

  • DHEA Sulfate: This hormone is primarily produced in the adrenal glands and is crucial for producing other sex hormones, including testosterone. Abnormal levels may indicate issues with the adrenal glands.

  • Prolactin: Although best known for its role in milk production in women, elevated prolactin levels in men can suppress testosterone production and lead to symptoms such as erectile dysfunction and decreased libido. Raised levels of prolactin in men can cause suppression of testosterone production and symptoms of erectile dysfunction, development of breast tissue, discharge from the nipples, low libido and low energy levels.

Testosterone Levels: Variations and Impact

Testosterone levels naturally vary throughout a man’s life and day. Levels peak in early adulthood and typically decline with age. They are highest in the morning and decrease by evening. Understanding these fluctuations is crucial for accurate hormonal assessment.


Symptoms of low testosterone can include reduced sex drive, fatigue, muscle loss, and erectile dysfunction. While ageing is a natural cause, other factors like pituitary disorders or certain medications can also reduce testosterone levels.


Certain medications including antidepressants and antipsychotics can raise prolactin levels, and sometimes it is caused by a tumour in the pituitary gland called a prolactinoma. Just as with LH and FSH, when testosterone levels are found to be low, it is important to check prolactin to see if there is an unexpected underlying cause of the low testosterone levels.

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The Importance of Comprehensive Hormone Testing

Comprehensive hormone testing is essential to consider the complex interactions between various hormones affecting testosterone. This should include checks for FSH, LH, prolactin, DHEA Sulfate, and oestrogen to diagnose the cause of hormonal imbalances accurately.


Male hormonal health is intricately linked to various aspects of physiological function and overall well-being. Understanding and managing these hormones through comprehensive testing allows men to proactively address health issues and improve their quality of life.

Take Control of Your Hormone Health

Experiencing symptoms like low energy or changes in libido can be signs of hormonal imbalances. Consider discussing comprehensive hormone testing with your healthcare provider. Take control of your health by understanding the full picture of your hormonal status.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are male hormones?

The term 'male hormones' can be misleading. Although testosterone is often regarded as a male hormone due to its prominent role in men, it is also produced by women, albeit in smaller quantities. These hormones are labelled as 'male' because they are responsible for typical masculine characteristics like facial and body hair, and increased muscle mass, and are crucial for sperm production and maintaining libido.

What hormones affect male health?

While hormones like insulin and thyroxine are crucial for regulating metabolism and blood sugar, testosterone is particularly vital for men, influencing characteristics such as muscle mass and libido. However, symptoms like fatigue, muscle loss, and infertility often linked to low testosterone are part of a complex system involving other hormones, including DHEAS, Luteinising Hormone, and prolactin, which are essential for testosterone production.

What are the signs of low testosterone in men?

Typical symptoms of low testosterone include loss of muscle mass, low energy levels, low sex drive, loss of body hair and sexual dysfunction. 

Is testosterone responsible for libido?

Testosterone is probably the most important hormone responsible for male libido but it is not the only one. Abnormal levels of a variety of different hormones can affect libido. 

When do men reach peak levels of testosterone?

This usually happens in the 20s and then levels gradually decline over the years.

Do men go through menopause?

There is a lot of interest in the concept of ‘male menopause’. Whilst testosterone levels do gradually decline, and whilst this can cause similar symptoms to those experienced by women after menopause, it tends to be a slower and more gradual process than that experienced by women. 

What is testosterone?

Testosterone is a hormone – one of the body’s chemical messengers- that is primarily involved in the development and maintenance of male characteristics and male sexual functioning. It is also known as an ‘androgen’.

Where is testosterone produced?

Testosterone is primarily produced in the testicles.

What causes low testosterone?

There are a variety of causes of low testosterone. Lower levels of testosterone are common in older men but may also be caused by problems affecting the testicles, the pituitary gland or the adrenal glands, and by certain medications. Lifestyle factors such as smoking, drinking excess alcohol, or taking too little exercise can also cause low testosterone.

What does testosterone do?

Testosterone does a wide range of things in the body. Broadly speaking it helps develop and maintain male characteristics such as muscle mass, high bone density, and body hair as well as maintaining sex drive and sexual function and allowing the proper production of sperm. 

What are androgens?

Androgens are the hormones that develop and maintain male sexual characteristics. Testosterone is the main one, but there are many others including DHEAS and androstenedione.

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