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What Is the Role of FSH in Males?

FSH is released by the pituitary gland.
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  • Written By: Marlene de Wilde
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 25 June 2014
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The follicle stimulating hormone, or FSH, is a heterodimeric glycoprotein which acts on spermatogonia in males and stimulates the production of sperm in sexually mature males. FSH is a gonadotropin which, together with the other gonadotropin known as the luteinizing hormone, or LH, produces male gametes in the testis. The action of FSH in males, together with testosterone, stimulates all the phases of spermatogenesis.

The hypothalamus is a part of the brain which connects to the pituitary gland and regulates the production and secretion of ganadotropin releasing hormone or GnRH. GnRh is responsible for the production and release of FSH and LH. FSH in males binds to specific receptors on Sertoli cells found within the testis which manufacture a product called inhibin. A decreased production of inhibin is associated with a decrease in spermatogenesis. Sertolli cells are produced in the seminiferous tubule within the testicle. They are activated by FSH in males and are responsible for excreting substances which trigger phases of development of the spermatozoa.

The pituitary gland is located at the base of the brain and consists of the anterior and posterior lobes. There are six types of secretory cells in the anterior lobe which secrete hormones in response to signals from the hypothalamus. These include FSH and LH, both of which are responsible for reproduction in males and females. In males, FSH is critical for the production of sperm and in females it acts on the follicle to stimulate the release of estrogens.

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In cases of infertility, levels of FSH are used to aid in determining the reason for a low sperm count. High levels are due to primary testicular failure which may be the result of developmental defects in testicular growth or injury to the testes because of a viral infection such as mumps, radiation or chemotherapy and trauma. Pituitary or hypothalamic disorders may cause low levels of FSH in males.

When a doctor suspects that a child is experiencing delayed or early sexual maturation, they may order an FSH test to evaluate pituitary function. FSH levels are normally high after birth but fall soon after, maintaining a low level until shortly before the beginning of puberty. Puberty is usually triggered by the hypothalamus signaling the pituitary gland to release hormones. An irregular onset of puberty may be an indication of a more serious problem in the hypothalamus or pituitary gland and the measurement of FSH and LH can differentiate between benign symptoms and an actual medical condition.

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discographer
Post 3

I knew that FSH is important for women but I only learned about its importance in men when my husband was diagnosed with azoospermia. He has been tested several times and doctors have not been able to find any sperm in his semen. Several of his hormones are at abnormal levels, but the FSH hormone seems to be the main problem. It's so high that it's off the charts.

We don't know what to do and my husband wants us to consider adoption. But I think we should wait and get testing done again.

Is there any way to naturally re-balance these hormones?

fify
Post 2

@burcinc-- The cause of infertility can be both low or high levels of FSH. This goes for both men and women.

In women, high FSH means few eggs and low FSH may be due to polycystic ovary syndrome. In men, both low and high FSH has to do with testicular function.

So for male fertility, FSH levels need to be ideal, not too high and not too low.

burcinc
Post 1

I'm confused. If a male is experiencing fertility problems, is the cause most likely high FSH or low FSH?

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