Androgens are male sex hormones that increase at puberty and are needed for a boy to develop into a sexually mature adult.
Testosterone is the most important androgen and plays a role in development of the penis and testes, facial/body hair growth and sperm production. It also affects mood and libido (sex drive), promotes muscle development and growth and maintenance of healthy bones.
About one in 200 men under 60 years have androgen deficiency and up to one in 10 older men may have it. Obesity and chronic medical problems increase this risk.
Symptoms of androgen deficiency vary according to age.
In early childhood, this may present as the penis not growing to the expected size. In teenage years, symptoms include late or failure to go through full puberty, small testes and penis, poor development of facial, body or pubic hair, poor muscle development, voice that does not deepen, breast development (gynaecomastia) and poor height surge.
In adulthood and amongst older men, it may present as low mood and irritability, poor concentration, low energy, reduced muscle strength, increased body fat, decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, low semen volume, reduced beard or body hair growth, gynaecomastia, hot flushes, sweats and osteoporosis.
There are multiple causes of androgen deficiency including genetic disorders, medical problems, ageing, damage to the testes or pituitary gland abnormalities.
If you are worried about androgen deficiency, consult your doctor who may, if appropriate, discuss further investigations including blood tests and treatment options such as testosterone replacement.
Written by Dr Red Akram