Hypogonadism is when the sex glands produce little or no hormones. In men, these glands (gonads) are the testes; in women, they are the ovaries.
The cause of hypogonadism may be “primary” or “central.” In primary hypogonadism, the ovaries or testes themselves do not function properly. Some causes of primary hypogonadism include:
The most common genetic disorders that cause primary hypogonadism are Turner syndrome (in women) and Klinefelter syndrome (in men). In central hypogonadism, the centers in the brain that control the gonads (hypothalamus and pituitary) do not function properly. Some causes of central hypogonadism include:
A genetic cause of central hypogonadism that also takes away the sense of smell is Kallmann syndrome (males). The most common tumors affecting the pituitary are craniopharyngioma (in children) and prolactinoma (in adults).
Girls who have hypogonadism during childhood will not begin menstruating. The condition can affect girls’ breast development and height. If hypogonadism occurs after puberty, symptoms include:
In boys, hypogonadism in childhood affects muscle and beard development and leads to growth problems. In men the usual symptoms are:
Hormone-based medicines are available for men and women. Estrogen comes in the form of a patch or pill. Testosterone can be given using a patch, a product soaked in by the gums, a gel, or by injection. For women who have not had their uterus removed, combination treatment with estrogen and progesterone is often recommended to decrease the chances of developing endometrial cancer. Women with hypogonadism who have a low sex drive can also take low-dose testosterone.
In some women, injections or pills can be used to stimulate ovulation. Injections of pituitary hormone may be used to help male patients produce sperm. Other people may need surgery and radiation therapy.
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