What is hypogonadism?
To put it simply, hypogonadism is when your body isn’t producing sex hormones the way it should (usually because of a problem with your gonads, or sex organs).
The term applies to both men and women, but you may also see the same condition referred to as ovarian dysfunction in women.
In men, your testes aren’t producing what the should, and in women, your ovaries aren’t producing what they should.
This can happen for a variety of reasons (which I’ll get into below), but, if you’re asking yourself, “what is hypogonadism,” then you’re probably starting to experience some alarming symptoms. Symptoms like
- Lack of energy (fatigue)
- Sexual dysfunction
- Weight issues
- Inability to concentrate
These are just a handful, and they affect both men and women.
If you’re experiencing these issues, you’re probably looking for an answer — a way to get back to feeling like yourself.
But, before you can do that, you need to first identify the problem — is it really hypogonadism? What is hypogonadism anyway?
To figure that out, let’s talk about what hypogonadism looks like in men and women.
What Is Hypogonadism in Men?
Now, I want to clear something up. When we talk about hypogonadism in men, we’re talking about an abnormal medical condition — something that shouldn’t be happening (or that’s happening unnaturally).
For men, that means we’re talking disease, physical injury, injury by another outside force, or illness as the cause (I’ll talk a little more about the causes below) — not the natural decline of hormones.
But, understand that the natural decline in hormone production is supposed to be very very slight. Studies show that this should only be a loss of about 1% per year. What we are seeing in our practice proves that this is not what is happening.
It’s not normal for your hormones to naturally drop below normal parameters without some change — it’s just not going to happen. Many experts in the field point to environmental exposures or endocrine system disruptors as a reason we are seeing so many cases now.
For men, there’s two types of hypogonadism: primary and secondary. You can learn more about those here, but it’s probably more instructive to talk about some of the causes first.
If you actually have hypogonadism, there must be a cause — it doesn’t just come out of nowhere (or, as some would have you believe, come as a result of normal aging), however, that cause is often not found so easily.
Here are just a few more concrete causes of hypogonadism in men:
- Klinefelter syndrome
- Down syndrome
- Opiate pain medication use or abuse
- Hypothalamic disease
- Pituitary disease
- Physical damage to the testicles
- Damage to the testicles from illness or chemotherapy
- Type II diabetes
- Sickle cell disease
If you think you might be suffering from male hypogonadism, click here to learn more about the possible symptoms.
What Is Hypogonadism in Women?
For women, things are a little different. While the same standards do apply in some respects, women do experience a natural decline in some hormone levels that can require intervention (in the form of hormone replacement therapy).
We call this natural decline in estrogen and progesterone “Menopause.”
There are many variations on this natural event, but it is often preceded by hormonal deficiencies that are not natural. It has become increasingly common for pre-menopausal women to have lower-than-normal hormone levels long before menopause even begins.
Additionally, thyroid hormones must be balanced to achieve optimal hormonal health.
Technically, menopause is a form of hypogonadism in women, though we’d include the reduction of any hormone produced in the ovaries in this definition.
Here are a few other causes of hypogonadism in women:
- Ovary removal
- Ovarian failure due to chemotherapy drugs or other drugs
- Loss of menstrual periods in a woman before menopause
- Early menopause (before the age of 40)
- Chemical or radiation exposure
- Down syndrome
- Opioid medications
- Hypothalamic disease
- Pituitary tumors
- Hypopituitarism or hyperprolactinemia
- Adrenal insufficiency
- Alcoholism or drug addiction
- Sickle cell anemia
So, what is hypogonadism? It’s just low hormones (well, lower than they should be).
Fortunately, there’s something you can do about it.
If you identify with the symptoms listed at the top of this article, if you’re experiencing any of the causes I’ve just listed, or if you just don’t feel like yourself, click here to learn more about hormone deficiency in women.