Androgenic alopecia, otherwise known as male pattern baldness, can be treated in a number of ways, including surgical, chemical, and hormonal therapy. Androgen, a natural hormone produced by the testes, is responsible for male pattern baldness. Androgens are converted into dihydrotestosterone (DHT) when the follicle becomes sensitive to it. DHTs are converted into testosterone (in females) or estrogen (in males) when the follicle grows too large and stops producing natural testosterone.
Male pattern baldness is more common in men than women, but the risk factors for the condition are similar for both genders. Androgenic alopecia is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, elevated blood pressure, stroke, and acne. Androgenic therapy has increased the success rate for treating these conditions in men and women. Androgenic replacement therapy, also sometimes called testosterone replacement therapy, is usually prescribed to counteract the side effects of male pattern baldness.
There are some risks that are related to testosterone replacement therapy. Some patients experience sexual dysfunction, which may lead to decreased libido or erections. In a small number of cases, symptoms have also led to the discontinuation of testosterone treatment. More frequently, however, patients report little change in sexual function and wish to continue their sex life. These side effects are typically mild and transient.
Another side effect of testosterone replacement therapy is hypogonadism, a disorder that occurs when there is an obstruction of the tubes that transport testosterone into the testicles. Symptoms include reduced sperm count, decreased production of sperm, and irregular sex drive. Testosterone causes the production of the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which can block the tubes. When DHT blocks the tubes, there is reduced blood flow to the testicles, and the sperm count and production of sperm are decreased.
Hypogonadism often first becomes apparent in men who are elderly or who have a history of sexual disease or injury. If the condition is left untreated, it can lead to irreversible conditions such as infertility. Testosterone deficiency can also occur due to stress, infection, or chemotherapy. Symptoms of low testosterone level include diminished sexual desire, erectile dysfunction, decreased libido, low sperm count, and decreased sperm mobility. Testosterone deficiency may cause symptoms of diabetes, increased cholesterol levels, osteoporosis, and hypertension. In extremely rare cases, low testosterone levels may also cause the development of cancer.
The treatment for hypogonadism usually involves testosterone replacement therapy. However, in some cases, doctors may consider using gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogs (GnRH analogs) instead. These drugs have been shown to improve hypogonadism symptoms and to delay the progress of the condition. Gonadotropin analogs decrease serum estrogen levels and relieve various symptoms of hypogonadism, including irritability, depression, impotence, and fatigue. Because they don’t contain estrogen-like conventional testosterone drugs do, they also reduce the possibility of developing osteoporosis and other complications linked to low testosterone levels. They can be used for up to six months to improve symptoms of hypogonadism caused by other factors such as aging and cancer.
If testosterone therapy isn’t an option for you, another option is to take supplements that contain natural testosterone. Some supplements actually contain compounds called entactogens, which have been shown to improve sexual health and fertility in both men and women. Some of these natural substances include Yohimbe, L-arginine, L-glutathione, and soy extract. Some of these ingredients have been tested specifically for their ability to treat low testosterone levels, but studies haven’t proven their effectiveness for the treatment of hypogonadism and other conditions caused by low testosterone levels. The best choice, however, remains testosterone replacement therapy.
However, you should never combine testosterone replacement therapy with an alternative treatment that’s FDA-approved and proven to work. Some of these other treatments include acupressure, lifestyle changes, diet changes, herbal supplements, and prescription medications. In some cases, patients have successfully combined hormonal treatment with acupuncture, herbal remedies, and meditation. If you’re thinking about using testosterone therapy for symptoms of clinical hypogonadism, talk to your doctor first.