Testicular Failure

Definition - What does Testicular Failure mean?

Testicular failure is when the male reproductive organs, the testicles, are unable to make sperm and testosterone (the male sex hormone). A man suffering from testicular failure has difficulty producing viable sperm and is infertile. This disorder can be the result of a genetic mutation (congenital) or due to damage sustained from injury, chemicals, drugs, or disease (acquired). Testicular failure is very uncommon, affecting only 1% of all men. Of men who seek medical help for fertility testing, 10% are infertile because of testicular failure.

FertilitySmarts explains Testicular Failure

There are two types of testicular failure: primary, which is caused by a problem in the testicles themselves, and secondary, a result of an issue with the hypothalamus or pituitary glands in the brain, ultimately causing the brain to stop signaling the testicles to produce testosterone.

Causes of testicular failure include the use of some types of medications, chromosomal abnormalities, diseases that affect the testes such as cancer or mumps, testicular torsion (twisted testes), varicose veins in the testes, inflamed testes, and injury. Certain lifestyle choices can also increase the chances of developing testicular failure, such as riding a motorcycle or bicycle, or frequent use of drugs such as marijuana.

Secondary testicular failure can be diagnosed early in life, after noticing certain signs and symptoms. These include delayed puberty, lack of puberty changes (voice does not deepen, no facial hair growth), small stature, and reduced sexual development. In this case, the brain is not producing the proper levels of hormones to cause puberty changes. Primary testicular failure symptoms can include a loss of muscle mass, loss of armpit and pubic hair, lack of sex drive, enlarged breast tissue, a decrease in height, a disappearance of facial hair (or slowing of facial hair growth). It can be difficult to diagnose testicular failure in older men, as their testosterone levels naturally decrease with age.

Testing for testicular failure usually involves blood testing to check the patient's testosterone and other hormone levels, which can be strong indicators of this condition. Doctors might also order a sperm count or genetic testing.

Hormone supplements can be used as a treatment, to get a patient back to normal levels of testosterone and other hormones and encourage the production of sperm. This is dependent on the cause of the testicular failure and does not always restore fertility. If testicular failure is caused by lifestyle choices such as drug use or hobbies such as motorcycle riding, avoiding these activities can allow the testicles to return to normal function. Testicular failure that is caused by genetic mutations cannot be treated this way.

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