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Infertility and Testicular Disorders

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How Can I Prevent Epididymitis?

The use of condoms during sex can help prevent epididymitis caused by chlamydia or gonorrhea.

What Is Hypogonadism?

One function of the testes is to secrete the hormone testosterone. This hormone plays an important role in the development and maintenance of many male physical characteristics. These include muscle mass and strength, fat distribution, bone mass, sperm production, and sex drive.

Hypogonadism in men is a condition that occurs when the testicles (also called gonads) do not produce enough testosterone. Primary hypogonadism occurs when there is a problem or abnormality in the testicles themselves. Secondary hypogonadism occurs when there is a problem with the pituitary gland in the brain, which sends chemical messages to the testicles to produce testosterone.

Hypogonadism can occur during fetal development, at puberty, or in adult men.

What Problems Are Associated With Hypogonadism?

When it occurs in adult men, hypogonadism may cause the following problems:

  • Erectile dysfunction (the inability to achieve or maintain an erection)
  • Infertility
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Decrease in beard and growth of body hair
  • Decrease in size or firmness of the testicles
  • Decrease in muscle mass and increase in body fat
  • Lose of bone mass (osteoporosis)
  • Enlarged male breast tissue
  • Mental and emotional symptoms similar to those of menopause in women (hot flashes, mood swings, irritability, depression, fatigue)

What Causes Hypogonadism?

There are various causes of hypogonadism, including:

  • Klinefelter's syndrome. This syndrome involves the presence of abnormal sex chromosomes. A male normally has one X chromosome and one Y chromosome. The Y chromosome contains the genetic material with the codes that determine the male gender, and related masculine characteristics and development. Males with Klinefelter's syndrome have an extra X chromosome, which causes abnormal development of the testicles.
  • Undescended testicles. (see above)
  • Hemochromatosis. This condition is marked by too much iron in the blood, and can cause the testicles or the pituitary gland to malfunction.
  • Testicular trauma. Damage to the testicles can affect the production of testosterone.
  • Cancer treatment. Chemotherapy or radiation therapy, common treatments for cancer, can interfere with testosterone and sperm production by the testicles.
  • Normal aging. Older men generally have lower levels of testosterone, although the decline of the hormone varies greatly among men.
  • Pituitary disorders. Problems affecting the pituitary gland, (a small organ in the middle of the brain) including a head injury or tumor, can interfere with the gland's ability to send hormonal signals to the testicles to produce testosterone.
  • Medications. Certain drugs can affect testosterone production. These include some commonly used psychiatric drugs.
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