What is An Androgen?
An androgen is a naturally occurring male sex hormone. It is produced and used by both men and women, but it is predominantly found in men. The most well known type of androgen is testosterone, which is produced in the testes by men and in the ovaries and adrenal glands by women. Testosterone is equally important to both sexes – women convert the majority of testosterone into estrogen.
What does An Androgen Do?
Androgen is critical for the body’s wellbeing and has hundreds of differing functions. It’s mainly used to regulate bone density, muscle mass, and neurological health (sex drive, mood, etc.). Androgens are what cause males to develop masculine features and help form the male genitalia. Certain androgens are also responsible for maintaining a regular rate of prostate growth in men.
Metabolic Conversions and Testosterone
Not all androgens are created equal. There are androgens that are weaker or stronger than testosterone, but all androgen types are necessary. Many androgens can be seen as building blocks to create stronger forms of androgen. For example, Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is an androgen that combines with an enzyme to create androstenedione, and androstenedione undergoes another metabolic reaction to become testosterone or estrogen. As you can see, the human body is constantly undergoing a wide array of chemical transformations at any given time. When an androgen interacts with an enzyme, it is often converted into an even more powerful androgen, capable of achieving more within the human body.
Androgens and DHT
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is one of the most potent androgens, and it’s produced by both men and women. It is a derivative byproduct of testosterone (which is why the word “testosterone” appears in the name) that handles all the same tasks as testosterone, but much more powerfully and proficiently.
DHT and Baldness
DHT can bind to the scalp’s tissue. Over time, enough DHT can block the hair follicle’s connection to the blood supply, which prevents the hair bulb from receiving nutrients, and stops any chance at hair growth. While not everybody’s follicles are susceptible to DHT, many people have a genetic predisposition that enables DHT to cause alopecia (baldness).
Androgens and 5aR
As mentioned before, androgens often combine with an enzyme in a metabolic reaction that enables new androgens to be formed. One such enzyme is 5aR. This enzyme is especially important for hair loss because it combines with another androgen to form DHT. Special medication known as 5aR inhibitors can prevent the enzyme from converting androgen into DHT. With less DHT in the scalp’s tissue, the blood supply to the hair follicle can be spared, and the hair can continue to grow to its full mass, volume, and density.
What are the Symptoms of an Androgen Imbalance?
If the level of androgens is too high, symptoms can include:
- Excessive acne
- Extreme hair growth (hirsutism)
- Facial hair (women)
- Alopecia (baldness)
Consequently, if the androgen level is too low, symptoms can include:
- Lower sex drive
- Excessive fatigue
- Less bone density
- Erratic mood changes
Hormonal Replacement Therapy
In some cases, artificial or bio-organic testosterone can rectify problems caused by a hormonal imbalance. These androgens can either be plant-based or synthetically grown in a lab.