Androgens are a group of hormones that regulate male traits, including primary sex organs, and the development of secondary sex characteristics at puberty, such as facial and body hair growth or voice changes. Androgens also facilitate the communication between cells around the entire body, and play an important role in sexual health, as well as prenatal and pubertal development in males.
Androgens are often characterized as “male hormones,” but this distinction is not accurate. Females also have androgens, which influence their libido and sexual arousal.
Androgens are synthesized either in the testes or the ovaries, as well as the adrenal glands, and function by binding to androgen receptors (AR), which in turn, activate them. The most common androgen is testosterone.
Androgens play an integral role in a male’s sexual health and reproductive organs, including the development of the vas deferens, the epididymis, the prostate, and the penis. There are androgen receptors in all male reproductive organs, which can be stimulated by testosterone and other androgens. Consequently, androgen deficiencies can lead to abnormal male sexual development and potential infertility.
For example, lower testosterone levels can have both direct and indirect impacts on male fertility. Specifically, lower levels of testosterone can lead to reduced sperm production, as well as reduced sex drive or erectyle dysfunction.
Restoring testosterone back to normal physiological levels using exogenous testosterone can have an adverse effect on testosterone levels. In fact, testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) is known to decrease follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and impair sperm production. FSH is crucial to sperm production and works alongside the luteinizing hormone (LH) to produce sperm in the testes. Testosterone replacement therapy hinders this process. Treatment of androgen deficiency begins with identifying the root cause, such as deficient pituitary gland functioning.