March 01, 2021

Testosterone uses in men and women

Have risks, but sometimes considered

You may think of testosterone as a distinctly male hormone, but it's present in both men and women. And there are reasons to consider medical uses of the hormone for both sexes.

In men, testosterone plays a pivotal role in the external development of genital organs and secondary sexual characteristics — such as a deep voice and facial hair. Testosterone affects other parts of the body, including bone density, blood pressure and the creation of red blood cells. It's produced primarily in the testicles, and levels vary greatly among men. Women make testosterone in their ovaries and adrenal glands, but they make much less than do men.

Proper use in men

Testosterone replacement therapy is intended for men diagnosed with hypogonadism. This is a condition in which the body doesn't produce enough testosterone, sperm or both, due to a problem with the testicles (primary hypogonadism) or with the pituitary gland or hypothalamus (secondary hypogonadism). Some people experience both primary and secondary hypogonadism.

A congenital abnormality can cause hypogonadism, or it may occur due to issues such as obesity; injury to the testicles; pituitary tumors; radiation treatment; or certain drugs such as opioids, cannabis or chemotherapy.

To be diagnosed with hypogonadism, you need to display both:

  • Low testosterone levels — This needs to be confirmed by at least two blood tests taken on separate days, as testosterone levels can fluctuate. There isn't a standard "low" level, but Mayo Clinic experts consider 240 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) the lower limit of normal.
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