Most men who require hormone replacement therapy with testosterone have some form of testicular injury or primary hypogonadism. In other words, the problem is all in their balls. Those of us who have secondary hypogonadism often have perfectly functioning testes, but the problem lies elsewhere in what’s known as the Hypothalamus Pituitary Testicular Axis (HPTA), which is responsible for keeping our male hormones in proper balance.
The problem with secondary hypogonadism, is that the treatment actually CAUSES primary hypogonadism by introducing exogenous (external) testosterone into the system. To understand that, first let’s go over some basics…
Among other things, this part of your brain sends GnRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone) down to instruct the pituitary gland to create more LH and FSH.
Among other things (like growth hormone), this gland at the base of your brain secretes LH (luteinizing hormone) and FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), which travel down to the testes / gonads to instruct them to create more testosterone.
Testes / Gonads:
Endocrinologists might get upset that I use these terms interchangeably. Oh well, screw ’em. You get the point. Your “balls” get the message from your pituitary gland to make more testosterone.
The important thing to remember about the hypothalamus pituitary testicular axis (HPTA), also sometimes called thehypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis (HPG), is that it does not run only in one direction. The body tries to reach homeostasis – a healthy balance of these hormones – and the entire system can fall out of whack once you start introducing any of these hormones from outside sources. Which brings me to…
The Problem With Taking Testosterone to Treat Secondary Hypogonadism:
First of all, let’s be clear – I take testosterone to treat my secondary hypogonadism. That’s because there is currently no choice. Why “cure” something when you can have a customer for life? Why treat my body’s inability to create enough GnRH when that would require research money and you already have a product that fixes my “symptoms” ?
Digression aside, the problem with introducing an external source of testosterone is that eventually your gonads see that they are no longer needed. They pack their bags, or – rather – pack INTO their bags, and practically disappear over time. Now guess what? Not only do I have secondary hypogonadism, which might have been made even worse, but I now have a classic case of primary hypogonadism to deal with if I the medical community should ever find a treatment for secondary hypogonadism.
Here’s an idea – Why don’t pharmaceutical companies make GnRH and market that to the endocrinologists so they can treat the source of my problem? Am I being naive here? Is there more to it than my not-medically-trained mind understands?
All gripes aside, I do feel great. Sure I’ll be tied to this drug like a prisoner for the rest of my life, but I feel ten years younger. I’m happy, confident, strong, lean, sharp, motivated, and a lot more fun in the bedroom. And I’ve yet to see any CONVINCING studies about the long-term health dangers of testosterone replacement in hypogonadal men. Heart disease? Prostate cancer? Show me the studies? These are often-quoted side-effects, but all I hear are doctors “deducing” them because, for instance, taking away a man’s testosterone seems to help with pre-existing conditions of prostate cancer. But that is not a cause-and-effect relationship. Just because removing testosterone helps treat or minimizes the recurrence of prostate cancer, doesn’t mean it causes prostate cancer. Does it? OK, ok, that’s anothe post entirely…