Androgen Insensitivity

Definition - What does Androgen Insensitivity mean?

Androgen insensitivity is a condition in which a person who is genetically male develops resistance to male hormones called androgens during development and puberty, leading to abnormal development of sexual characteristics. Depending on the degree of androgen insensitivity, patients may be born with female, male or mixed genital features. Those who are raised as females cannot get pregnant as they do not have ovaries or a functioning uterus. Those who are raised as males also suffer from infertility due to abnormalities in sexual function and sperm production.

Androgen insensitivity is also called testicular feminization.

FertilitySmarts explains Androgen Insensitivity

Genetics determine the sex of an individual. Genetic information in the cells are condensed as chromosomes, and there are 23 pairs of chromosomes in a human cell, two of which are responsible for determination of the sex. Females have two X chromosomes while males have one X and one Y chromosome.

Androgenic hormones play the primary role in the development of male genitalia in a genetic male. These hormones bind to specific receptors on cells and regulate the process of sexual differentiation. A defect in the X chromosome can result in abnormalities in these receptors that will render the person completely or partially resistant to androgens.

In patients with complete androgen insensitivity, as normal male sexual differentiation does not occur, develop female genitalia and are usually born and raised as females. At puberty, they develop female secondary sexual characteristics such as breast development and female pattern hair growth. But since they do not have ovaries and a uterus, they are unable to conceive a child.

Partial androgen insensitivity can lead to the development of female, male or mixed genital features. Even though they may be raised as males, they develop male factor infertility as they do not have properly functioning testes to produce sperm.

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