Hypogonadism is a condition in which the ovaries in females or the testes in males do not function properly. As a result, normal sexual development does not take place, or gonadal function regresses over time.
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.
Traits of hypogonadism include: inability to produce childrenabsence of hair around the genitals and under the armpitslack of normal menstrual periods in womenunderdeveloped genitals, which happens only when a person develops hypogonadism before pubertyabsence of normal sex drive
Causes of hypogonadism include: inherited conditionscertain types of tumorssevere nutritional problemsserious 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.
Most of the time, nothing can be done to prevent the condition.
The diagnosis of hypogonadism is sometimes apparent from the medical history and physical examination. Often, further tests are needed. These may include blood tests or special x-rays.
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.
This is not a contagious condition so there are no risks to others.
Treatment may include steps to address the underlying cause. This may mean removing a tumor. Hormone replacement is necessary to treat hypogonadism. These medications can be delivered by pill or by injection. Symptoms may improve considerably after treatment, and some individuals may then be able to produce children.
Hormone preparations may cause allergic reactions, stomach upset, or other side effects. Surgery can be complicated by infection, bleeding, or reactions to anesthesia.
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.
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 healthcare professional.
Endocrinology, 1989, DeGroot et al.
Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 1998, Fauci et al.