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Testicular failure

Primary hypogonadism - male

Testicular failure occurs when the testicles cannot produce sperm or male hormones, such as testosterone.

Images

Testicular anatomy
Male reproductive anatomy

Causes

Testicular failure is uncommon. Causes include:

The following can increase the risk of testicular failure:

Symptoms

Symptoms depend on the age when testicular failure develops, either before or after puberty.

Symptoms may include:

Men may also notice they do not need to shave as often.

Exams and Tests

A physical exam may show:

Other tests may show low bone mineral density and fractures. Blood tests may show a low level of testosterone and high levels of prolactin, FSH, and LH (determines if the problem is primary or secondary).

If your concern is fertility, your health care provider may also order a semen analysis to examine the number of healthy sperm you are producing.

Sometimes, an ultrasound of the testes will be ordered.

Testicular failure and low testosterone level may be hard to diagnose in older men because testosterone level normally decreases slowly with age.

Treatment

Male hormone supplements may treat some forms of testicular failure. This treatment is called testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). TRT can be given as a gel, patch, injection, or implant.

Avoiding the medicine or activity that is causing the problem may bring testicle function back to normal.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Many forms of testicular failure cannot be reversed. TRT can help reverse symptoms, although it may not restore fertility.

Men who are having chemotherapy that can cause testicular failure should discuss freezing sperm samples before the starting treatment.

Possible Complications

Testicular failure that begins before puberty will stop normal body growth. It can prevent adult male characteristics (such as deep voice and beard) from developing. This can be treated with TRT.

Men who are on TRT need to be carefully monitored by a doctor. TRT may cause the following:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call for an appointment with your provider if you have symptoms of testicular failure.

Also call your provider if you're on TRT and you think you're having side effects from the treatment.

Prevention

Avoid higher-risk activities if possible.

Related Information

Testes
Testicular torsion
Mumps
Testicular cancer
Scrotum
Substance use
Undescended testicle

References

Allan CA, McLachlan RI. Androgen deficiency disorders. In: Jameson JL, De Groot LJ, de Kretser DM, et al, eds. Endocrinology: Adult and Pediatric. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 139.

Morgentaler A, Zitzmann M, Traish AM, et al. Fundamental concepts regarding testosterone deficiency and treatment: international expert consensus resolutions. Mayo Clin Proc. 2016;91(7):881-896. PMID: 27313122 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27313122.

US Food and Drug Administration website. FDA drug safety communication: FDA cautions about using testosterone products for low testosterone due to aging; requires labeling change to inform of possible increased risk of heart attack and stroke with use. www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm436259.htm. Updated February 26, 2018. Accessed May 20, 2019.

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Review Date: 5/6/2019  

Reviewed By: Brent Wisse, MD, board certified in Metabolism/Endocrinology, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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