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Hypogonadism (underactive testes) What is it? Hypogonadism means that the testicles are underworking, so there's low production of the male sex hormone testosterone and impaired sperm production. In boys who have not yet reached puberty, this means that growth of the testicles and the appearance of facial, armpit and pubic hair, plus muscle growth and deepening of the voice, may be delayed or arrested altogether.

What causes it? Hypogonadism may result from a chromosome disorder, an infection such as mumps or an abnormality of the pituitary gland in the brain, which controls hormone production by the testicles.

What are the symptoms? If hypogonadism occurs after puberty as a result of chemotherapy, for instance, sperm production will be reduced.

There may also be the possibility of erectile dysfunction and lowered sex drive.

What might be done? After a physical examination, a blood test will measure levels of testosterone and other hormones and look for a chromosome abnormality.

Treatment is aimed at the underlying cause. For example, synthetic male hormones may be used to treat disorders of the testes.

If underactivity of the pituitary gland is the cause, pituitary hormones may be given.

In boys, hormone treatment stimulates puberty, including growth and sexual development. In men, it encourages growth of facial hair, muscle strength, potency and sex drive.

Side effects when patients are treated with hormones may include breast development (gynaecomastia) and acne.

If hypogonadism develops due to a testicular disorder, fertility is rarely achieved.

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Title Annotation:Features; Opinion Column
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 4, 2014
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