Testosterone has a reputation for being the man’s hormone — the chemical that deepens a boy’s voice and puts hair on his chest. Plenty of people believe that the higher a person’s testosterone, the more masculine that person is, that a red-blooded man can’t have too much testosterone if he values size, strength, stamina and sexual desirability.
However, almost all these popular beliefs about testosterone are utterly false. If you want to know more about testosterone’s true role within the human system, read on.
Everyone Needs Testosterone
Though men tend to have higher levels of testosterone, testosterone shouldn’t be considered the “masculine” hormone. In truth, every human body requires testosterone to function properly, so it isn’t healthy to stigmatize testosterone levels in a gendered way.
Men do tend to require higher levels of testosterone because testosterone is a primary driver of male reproductive health. Testosterone is essential in male fetuses and children because it ensure the proper development of male genitalia, and testosterone spikes during male puberty as the male reproductive system becomes more functional. Without the right amount of testosterone, the testes would be unable to produce sperm, making a man infertile.
However, women’s reproductive health requires testosterone, too. Testosterone is responsible for the growth and maintenance of ovarian follicles, which hold and dispense eggs during the right stage of the menstrual cycle. Women with imbalanced testosterone often suffer from infertility issues, as well. What’s more, testosterone can impact a woman’s sexual behavior, increasing or decreasing her libido as well as her ability to reach sexual satisfaction.
Both sexes benefit from testosterone’s role in developing bone and muscle mass. One of the first indications of low testosterone is an inability to build or maintain muscle, which can result in weakness that interferes with daily life. Over time, low testosterone can cause serious concerns with regards to skeletal health, so both men and women should have their testosterone levels checked if suffering from issues like weakness, fatigue or sluggishness.
Low Testosterone Is Bad, High Testosterone Is Worse
Many men quiver in fear at the thought of having a testosterone deficiency, in the mistaken belief that it reflects poorly on their masculinity. In men and women alike, insufficient testosterone has health ramifications like muscle loss, low libido, infertility and mood disorders, like depression and anxiety. Though these issues might be more pronounced in men who suffer from low testosterone, they are no less dangerous to women, and they are easily rectified with testosterone boosters.
However, no one should take any kind of testosterone supplementation without first checking their hormone levels because too much testosterone is much, much worse than too little. Women experience many of the same effects as too little testosterone, which include disruptions to the menstrual cycle as well as body hair growth, but men with an overabundance of testosterone can suffer serious ramifications, such as:
- Prostate enlargement and prostate cancer
- Liver disease
- Damage to cardiac muscles and increased heart attack risk
- High blood pressure
- Stunted growth
- Depression, anxiety and mood swings
Worse, high testosterone is a major cause of reckless behavior and impaired judgement, which can lead to violent altercations that result in injury or death. Suffice it to say that men should not necessarily revere those around them with the highest testosterone level; instead, a healthy testosterone level for each individual should be valued overall.
Various Diseases Can Impact Testosterone Production
Some bodies naturally produce lower amounts of testosterone, and other bodies naturally produce too much. However, sometimes imbalanced testosterone levels are a symptom rather than a primary concern. As a hormone, testosterone is a piece of the human puzzle, and if the puzzle is jumbled by some other issue, testosterone’s piece might get lost or damaged in the shuffle. It is important for healthcare providers and patients alike to look into the possibility of underlying diseases upon discovering a testosterone imbalance.
Some diseases affecting testosterone production are serious and require immediate medical attention to prevent dramatic harm, but other diseases shouldn’t cause that much concern. Some examples of diseases impacting testosterone include:
- Injury to the testes or testicular cancer
- Tumors on or near the pituitary and hypothalamus glands
- Klinefelter syndrome
What’s more, various medications can affect testosterone levels. Steroids as well as major tranquilizers and opiates are well-known to result in testosterone imbalances, so patients might want to discuss the possibility of boosting or supplementing the hormone when beginning these treatments.
Testosterone is too often misunderstood. Hopefully, you gained greater insight into this important hormone, and you can educate others about how it impacts all human bodies.