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Male genitourinary system

Hypogonadism is a condition in which the ovaries in women or the testes in men do not function properly. As a result, normal sexual development does not take place or is reversed.

What is going on in the body? 
The gonads are the glands that secrete sex hormones. In men these are the testes. In women, they are the ovaries. The sex hormones promote a person's physical and sexual development. Individuals who suffer from hypogonadism may not have normal growth or sexual development.

What are the signs and symptoms of the condition? 
Traits of hypogonadism include:
  • inability to produce children
  • absence of hair around the genitals and under the armpits
  • lack of normal menstrual periods in women
  • underdeveloped genitals, which happens only when a person develops hypogonadism before puberty
  • absence of normal sex drive
What are the causes and risks of the condition? 
Causes of hypogonadism include:
  • inherited conditions
  • certain types of tumours
  • severe nutritional problems
  • serious diseases such as kidney failure or cancer
The risks the individual faces are primarily related to the underlying condition. Hypogonadism itself causes few problems and can usually be treated.

What can be done to prevent the condition? 
Most of the time, nothing can be done to prevent the condition.

How is the condition diagnosed? 
The symptoms a person has, combined with the findings of a physical examination, give an indication of hypogonadism. Often, further tests are needed. These may include blood tests or special x-rays.

What are the long-term effects of the condition? 
Children who do not go through puberty like their peers often experience psychological distress. Most long-term effects from the condition are related to the underlying cause of the hypogonadism.

What are the risks to others? 
This is not a contagious condition so there are no risks to others.

What are the treatments for the condition? 
Treatment may include steps to address the underlying cause. This may mean removing a tumour. Hormone replacement is necessary to treat hypogonadism. These medications can be delivered by pill, patch, implant or injections. Symptoms may improve considerably after treatment, and some individuals may then be able to produce children.

What are the side effects of the treatments? 
Hormone preparations may cause allergic reactions, stomach upset, or other side effects. Surgery carries the risks of infection, bleeding, and allergic reaction to the anaesthesia.

What happens after treatment for the condition? 
Once the underlying cause is corrected, the individual may return to normal. If the affected person is a child, he or she may begin to mature sexually. Often, the underlying cause cannot be corrected. In these cases, lifelong hormone replacement is necessary.

How is the condition monitored? 
Tracking a person's symptoms and physical appearance may be all that is necessary to monitor hypogonadism. Periodic blood tests may be needed to monitor hormone levels. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the doctor.

Author: Adam Brochert, MD
Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia
Last Updated: 1/10/2001
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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