What is testosterone? This is just one of the many questions many would ask concerning this important hormone. It is the primary male sex hormone that controls most of the sexual functions and growth of male reproductive organs such as the testis and prostate. It is also responsible for the increase in body hair, muscles, and bones. Other than being a sex hormone it is also an androgenic-anabolic steroid.
Types of Testosterone
To understand what is testosterone, it is necessary to classify the different types available in the body. There are three main types of testosterone in the body. These include:
- The free testosterone
This accounts for 2 to 3 % of the total testosterone. Its work is to activate receptors promoting good health.
- Albumin-bound testosterone
This is testosterone that has been bound to albumin. The binding makes it inactive, but it can be freed to increase more of the free testosterone in the body.
- Testosterone-binding globulin
This is also another of the types of testosterone in the body. It is known as sex hormone-binding globulin which is a protein that binds together with testosterone. It consists of almost 50% of the total testosterone level in the body. Being bound to the globulin, it is also biologically inactive.
The testosterone hormone is produced in the testes with a small amount manufactured by the adrenal glands located above the kidneys. Pituitary glands inform the testes how much testosterone the body requires so that there can always be adequate amounts. The ovaries in women also produce the hormone but in smaller quantities.
What are the Functions of Testosterone?
The primary testosterone function is to regulate sex drive, normal development of sperms, bone formation, and hair growth. Other testosterone functions include enhancing muscle growth and strength, and the production of red blood cells. Another testosterone function is – distribution of fat in the body.
Normal testosterone levels decrease with age. The standard range for healthy adults is 300 mg/dL and 1050 mg/dL. As the levels decline, other issues may also be evident such as loss of hair, libido, sperm count and bone mass. How do you test for the testosterone levels in the body?
The test will indicate whether you have too much or too little testosterone in the body. When should the test be carried out? When there is delayed puberty, a doctor may request for the test. Also when issues related to declined testosterone in the blood are evident, the test can be carried out.
Causes of decreased testosterone include age, damage to the testis, pituitary gland or hypothalamic disease. The testis can be damaged by taking too much alcohol, trauma or mumps. A tumor on the pituitary gland can also cause testosterone produced to be insufficient.
Too much of the testosterone hormone can be a problem too. A tumor can cause this in the adrenal or testis, early puberty or androgen insensitivity. In women, too much of the hormone can lead to more hair growth, missed menstruation, a deeper voice and infertility. A tumor on the adrenal glands or ovaries can cause testosterone produced to be more than the body requires.
Before taking the test, your doctor will ask whether you are on any medication. Some drugs can affect the presence of the hormone in the blood. You might be asked to stop the medication or schedule the test when you are not on the drug. Also, the best time to carry out the tests is in the early hours of the day when levels are higher.
During the blood test, the doctor will draw some blood from your hand for testing. This will determine the test testosterone levels in the blood. The results which will indicate whether the levels are low or high is not the end. The doctor will go a step further to determine the cause.
The next course of action is to keep the levels normal. How is this done? Several methods can be applied, but testosterone therapy is the most recommended way. This is more so as you age because the production levels gradually decline. Also, when low rates lead to decreased blood and low testosterone, therapy might be the best option.
There are several therapy methods you can choose. These include testosterone therapy skin patch, which is worn on the arm, mouth patch, injections and implants. The mouth patch is a tablet that releases the hormone slowly when attached to the upper gum. You should use two tablets daily. Injections are administered to the muscles directly.
A healthy lifestyle might also help normalize the levels of testosterone, but this is not an effective solution. The results are also slower and not certain. Therapy gives instant results and ensures the right levels are achieved every day. These methods are safe and easy. Implants are an excellent choice for those who might not remember to use the patches or injections.