Definition & Overview
The sex hormones are a group of hormones responsible for controlling puberty, reproduction, birth, and lactation. Sex hormone disorders, also referred to as reproductive hormone disorders, are medical conditions that affect the different glands and organs of the body responsible for the production of the sex hormones.
The sex hormones, which include testosterone (male) and estrogen (female) are substances that essential in almost every body function, but more so in sexual functions and reproduction. Both testosterone and estrogen are present in males and females, but the levels differ according to sex. Males have higher levels of testosterone and females have higher levels of estrogen.
Sex hormone disorders disrupt the normal production of hormones, which would then result in a variety of medical problems, such as a reduced sex drive (libido), vaginal dryness, infertility, or excessive body hair.
Cause of Condition
Women are more prone to sex hormone disorders than men are. This is mostly because women undergo normal changes in their bodies that affect the production of sex hormones. Such changes include menstruation and menopause.
Sex hormone disorders are can be caused by injuries or diseases to the primary and supporting glands and organs responsible for the production and regulation of the hormones. In men, testosterone is primarily produced in the testicles, but other glands and organs in the endocrine system, such as the adrenal glands and pituitary gland, are also involved. In women, the ovaries produce estrogen, but the adrenal glands and pituitary gland also help in the production and/or regulation of the hormone.
In addition to the endocrine glands, the heart, liver, kidney, and gonad also help to produce sex hormones. Therefore, sex hormone disorders can be caused by problems in the endocrine glands or the other organs.
The primary causes of sex hormone disorders include:
- Infections in the glands or organs
- Excessive alcohol consumption or drug use
- Injury to the testicles
- Surgical removal of the testicles
- Medications, which include steroids
- Hereditary factors
Sex hormone disorders can also be caused by:
- Low body fat
- Other health problems
- Hormone supplements
- Thyroid problems
- Ovarian cysts
- Ovarian tumors
It’s important to understand that several glands and organs are involved in the production of sex hormones. Problems with any one of these glands and organs will display different symptoms, and will also need to be diagnosed and treated accordingly.
Sex hormone disorders lead to a variety of medical conditions, which would then display different symptoms. Some of the most common are polycystic ovarian syndrome, hirsutism, and hypogonadism.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome, also called polycystic ovary syndrome, occurs when a woman experiences hormonal imbalance. As a result, women can experience menstruation difficulties or problems in conceiving a child. The condition can also result in unwanted changes in her appearance.
Hirsutism is characterized by excessive male pattern hair growth caused by increased levels of the male hormone testosterone and other androgens.
Hypogonadism also referred to as sex hormone deficiency, is a condition characterized by the under production of the sex hormones. Some of the most common symptoms are fatigue, muscle loss, low bone density, anemia, and reduced sex drive.
Other symptoms of sex hormone disorders include a personality change, swelling of the breast, breast discharge, impotence, exaggerated sexual desires, and aggressive behavior.
Who to See & Types of Treatment Available
Patients who experience symptoms mentioned above are typically referred by their doctor to an endocrinologist, a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders of the endocrine system.
The specialist will carry out various tests and examinations to pinpoint the exact problem to provide an accurate diagnosis and formulate the most applicable treatment plan. Treatment for sex hormone disorders will differ according to the type and extent of the condition as well as the gender of the patient.
For example, treatment of female sexual dysfunction can include non-medical (such as counseling, change in lifestyle, and the use of lubricants or other sexual devices) and medical methods (such as estrogen therapy and androgen therapy). The medications used in the treatment for this condition include Flibanserin, Tibolone, and Phosphodiesterase inhibitors.
Another example is the treatment for male low testosterone. Treatment can include testosterone therapy or the treatment for a specific disease that affects the testicles resulting in a low production of testosterone.
Treatment for hirsutism, on the other hand, can include the prescription of Glucocorticoids, Spironolactone, Finasteride, Flutamide, Cyproterone Acetate, and insulin sensitizers.
In most cases of sex hormone disorders, doctors usually opt to try non-medical treatment methods. If these fail to improve the condition, then medications will be prescribed. When both methods fail, the specialist may opt for invasive procedures such as surgery, if any such form of treatment is available for the particular disorder.
- The American Medical Association: "Endocrine System"
- The Hormone Society: "Endocrine System."
- National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: "Polycystic Ovary Syndrome."
- American Association of Clinical Chemistry, Lab Tests Online: "Endocrine Syndromes."