Testosterone plays a vital role in everything from bone density and mass to mood and libido. While testosterone is usually considered an androgen, or “male” hormone, because it produces male characteristics in the body, it plays a significant role in women as well. For men, testosterone is responsible for male functions of the human body, such as erection function. For women, it helps secrete hormones that are vital to menstrual cycles. Let’s explore testosterone further by seeing how it plays a role in each of the following:
- Bone density
- Muscular strength and mass
- Hair and skin
- Testosterone for men
- Testosterone for women
- What happens if you have too much testosterone
- What happens if you have too little testosterone
As you get older their bone density decreases and puts you at risk of osteoporosis or weak bones. Testosterone plays a key role in bone mineral density. Bone mineral density is basically a measure of bone density that reflects the strength of bones as represented by calcium content. This is important because stronger bones help support your muscles and internal organs. Like bone density, testosterone also decreases as you get older. Studies are revealing that bone density increases with testosterone treatment, assuming that the dose is high enough. It can help hip and spinal bone density, as well as increased bone mineral density in individuals transitioning from female to male, but there’s still much more to be discovered.
Muscular Strength and Mass
Testosterone is directly linked to increased muscle mass. Leaner body mass boosts energy and also controls weight. If your testosterone levels are higher than normal, you’re more likely to have an easier time gaining muscle than someone with low levels. However, it’s not how much testosterone someone has, but how sensitive they are to the hormone. For testosterone to impact muscle growth, it needs to interact with muscle tissue via your androgen receptors. One way that androgen receptors respond to testosterone is by signaling muscle cells to increase the rate at which new muscle protein is laid down. Over time, this increase in muscle protein synthesis leads to bigger, stronger bones.
Hair and Skin
As you start puberty, testosterone spurs hair growth on your arms, legs, armpits, and genital area, and for some people, their face and chest as well. If your testosterone levels decrease, you might actually lose some body hair. This can be fixed with testosterone replacement therapy, though that may come with some additional side effects.
Testosterone plays a significant role in your mental health – particularly your mood. The cells in your brain have testosterone receptors, so when your testosterone levels are lower than normal, those cells aren’t functioning optimally. This can lead to mood swings, anxiety, stress, irritability, and even depression. Since testosterone decreases with age, the hormone plays a key role in menopause for women and “andropause” or “manopause” in men. However, low testosterone levels can decrease at any age. If you’re experiencing mood shifts without explanation, low testosterone levels may be the culprit.
As we mentioned in our post about libido, everyone’s sex drive is different. The one thing that everyone has in common is that, no matter what your normal libido levels may be, these levels are perfectly natural. While that’s a good thing, it also makes it difficult for researchers to determine exactly how testosterone increases libido. However, if you are experiencing mood swings, your sex drive is likely also low.
Testosterone in Men
Not only can low levels of testosterone negatively impact your mood and libido – it can also lead to or be a cause of erectile dysfunction. While erections depend on testosterone, the relationship between the two isn’t fully understood. Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) can bring your levels back to normal and restore your sex drive, make you feel more alert, sharp, and energetic. However, we only recommend TRT in some cases because it may impact your ability to reproduce while you’re on it – so much so that it’s been studied as a birth control method because 90% of men can drop their sperm counts to zero. Viagra or testosterone gel can serve as helpful alternatives and are also worth exploring.
Testosterone in Women
While we usually associate testosterone with men, it plays a profound role in women’s sexual health as well. It impacts breast health, menstrual health, vaginal health, and fertility. Testosterone implants have been used for over eighty years to treat symptoms of hormone deficiency in pre and postmenopausal women. Evidence supports that androgens can help fight breast cancer, though more research is needed. While higher levels of testosterone in women can fight breast cancer, it can cause a variety of other issues. For instance, too much testosterone can interfere with ovulation and menstruation. It can also cause absent or irregular periods, weight gain, acne, and even excessive body hair. Women only require small quantities of testosterone, and this hormone must be in balance or it risks interfering with fertility. Testosterone helps to promote the development of follicles, which hold and release eggs during ovulation. Testosterone is also essential for the integrity of vaginal tissue structure and the complex neurovascular processes that regulate lubrication and arousal. It also helps with inflammation and mucin secretions within the vagina. As you can see, there are pros and cons for women to have lower or higher levels of testosterone based on what symptoms they are trying to treat.
What Happens When Your Testosterone is Imbalanced
Overall, here’s a list of what happens if you have too little or too much testosterone… Too little:
- Loss of muscle mass
- Hot flashes
- Loss of body hair or a reduction of body and facial hair
- Small testicles
- Low libido
- Reduced sperm count and/or infertility
- Decreased bone density
- Increased breast size
- Irritability and mood swings
- Stress, anxiety, and/or depression
- Increased muscle mass
- Increased risk of blood clots
- Heightened aggressive behavior, mood swings, and irritability
- Prostate enlargement
- Difficulty urinating
- Increased risk of blood clots
- Increased risk of heart attack
- Decreased sperm counts
- Fluid retention with swelling of the legs and feet
- Liver disease
- Increased risk of appetite and potential weight gain
If you’d like to learn more about how your testosterone affects you or about hormone replacement therapy, give us a call. We’re happy to help.