Hypogonadism is a condition in which the male testes or the female ovaries produce little or no sex hormones.
Hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (HH) is a form of hypogonadism that is due to a problem with the pituitary gland or hypothalamus.
Gonadotropin deficiency; Secondary hypogonadism
HH is caused by a lack of hormones that normally stimulate the ovaries or testes: gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).
- The hypothalamus in the brain releases gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH).
- This hormone stimulates the pituitary gland to release FSH and LH.
- These hormones tell the female ovaries or the male testes to release hormones that lead to normal sexual development in puberty.
- Any change in this hormone release chain causes a lack of sex hormones and prevents normal sexual maturity.
There are several causes of HH:
- Damage to the pituitary gland or hypothalamus from surgery, injury, tumor, infection, or radiation
- Genetic defects
- High doses or long-term use of opioid or steroid (glucocorticoid) medicines
- Severe stress
- Nutritional problems (both rapid weight gain or weight loss)
- Chronic medical diseases, including chronic inflammation or infections
- Certain medical conditions, such as iron overload
Kallmann syndrome is an inherited form of HH. Some people with this condition also have anosmia (loss of the sense of smell).
- Lack of development at puberty (development may be very late or incomplete)
- In girls, a lack of breasts and menstrual periods
- In boys, no development of sex characteristics, such as enlargement of the testes and penis, deepening of the voice, and facial hair
- Inability to smell (in some cases)
- Short stature (in some cases)
- Loss of interest in sex (libido) in men
- Loss of menstrual periods (amenorrhea) in women
- Decreased energy and interest in activities
- Loss of muscle mass in men
- Weight gain
- Mood changes
Exams and Tests
Tests that may be done include:
- Blood tests to measure hormone levels such as FSH, LH, and TSH, prolactin, testosterone and estradiol
- LH response to GnRH
- MRI of the pituitary gland/hypothalamus (to look for a tumor or other growth)
- Genetic testing
- Blood tests to check for iron level
Treatment depends on the source of the problem, but may involve:
- Injections of testosterone (in males)
- Slow-release testosterone skin patch (in males)
- Testosterone gels (in males)
- Estrogen and progesterone pills or skin patches (in females)
- GnRH injections
The right hormone treatment will cause puberty to start and may restore fertility. If the condition begins after puberty or in adulthood, symptoms will often improve with treatment.
Health problems that may result from HH include:
- Delayed puberty
- Early menopause (in females)
- Low bone density and fractures later in life
- Low self-esteem due to late start of puberty (emotional support may be helpful)
- Sexual problems, such as low libido
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if:
- Your child does not start puberty at the appropriate time
- You are a woman under 40 and your menstrual cycles stop
- You have lost armpit or pubic hair
- You are a man and you have decreased interest in sex
Haddad NG, Eugster EA. Delayed puberty. In: Jameson JL, De Groot LJ, de Kretser DM, et al, eds. Endocrinology: Adult and Pediatric. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 122.
Molitch ME. Anterior pituitary. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 224.
Silveira LF, Latronico AC. Approach to the patient with hypogonadotropic hypogonadism. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2013;98(5):1781-1788. PMID: 23650335 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23650335.
Reviewed By:Brent Wisse, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Nutrition, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency
or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional
should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911
for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they
do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
The Agency for Health Care Administration (Agency) and this website do not claim the information on, or referred to by, this site is error free. This site may include links to websites of other government agencies or private groups. Our Agency and this website do not control such sites and are not responsible for their content. Reference to or links to any other group, product, service, or information does not mean our Agency or this website approves of that group, product, service, or information.
Additionally, while health information provided through this website may be a valuable resource for the public, it is not designed to offer medical advice. Talk with your doctor about medical care questions you may have.