Testosterone is a hormone that causes male characteristics. For men, it helps to regulate sex drive and has a role in controlling bone mass, fat distribution, muscle mass, strength and the production of red blood cells and sperm. Testosterone is produced in the testicles of men and, in much smaller amounts, in the ovaries of women. Testosterone levels in men naturally decline after the age of 30, although lower than normal levels can occur at any age and can cause low libido, erectile dysfunction, difficulty in gaining and maintaining muscle mass and lack of energy. Although women have much lower amounts of testosterone than men, it is important for much the same reasons, playing a role in libido, the distribution of muscle and fat and the formation of red blood cells. All laboratories will slightly differ in the reference ranges they apply because they are based on the population they are testing. The normal range is set so that 95% of men will fall into it. For greater consistency, we use the guidance from the British Society for Sexual Medicine (BSSM) which advises that low testosterone can be diagnosed when testosterone is consistently below the reference range, and that levels below 12 nmol/L could also be considered low, especially in men who also report symptoms of low testosterone or who have low levels of free testosterone.
Free androgen index
The free androgen index (FAI) is a calculation used to determine the amount of testosterone which is free (unbound) in the bloodstream. Most testosterone is bound to proteins sex hormone binding globulin and albumin and is not available to interact with the body's cells. The FAI is a calculation based on the ratio of testosterone and SHBG and is a measure of the amount of testosterone that is available to act on the body's tissues. The free androgen index is used in women to assess the likelihood of polycystic ovarian syndrome. In men, free testosterone gives a better indication of testosterone status.
C-Reactive Protein (CRP) is an inflammation marker used to assess whether there is inflammation in the body - it does not identify where the inflammation is located. High Sensitivity CRP (CRP-hs) is a test used to detect low-level inflammation thought to damage blood vessels which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. When you suffer a serious injury or infection you experience significant inflammation around the site of injury - such as the swelling around a twisted ankle. Any injury like this will cause your CRP-hs to rise.
Ferritin is a protein which stores iron in your cells and tissues. Usually, the body incorporates iron into haemoglobin to be transported around the body, but when it has a surplus, it stores the remaining iron in ferritin for later use. Measuring ferritin levels gives us a good indication of the amount of iron stored in your body.
SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin) is a protein which transports the sex hormones (testosterone, oestrogen and dihydrotestosterone (DHT)) in the blood.Hormones which are bound to SHBG are inactive which means that they are unavailable to your cells. Measuring the level of SHBG in your blood gives important information about your levels of free or unbound hormones which are biologically active and available for use.
Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) is produced in the pituitary gland in order to regulate the production of thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) by the thyroid gland. If thyroid hormones in the blood are low, then more TSH is produced to stimulate the thyroid gland to produce more of them. If thyroid hormone levels are high, then the pituitary produces less TSH to slow the production of thyroid hormones. If TSH is too high or too low, it normally signifies that there is a problem with the thyroid gland which is causing it to under or over produce thyroid hormones. Sometimes a disorder of the pituitary gland can also cause abnormal TSH levels.
Thyroxine (T4) is one of two hormones produced by the thyroid gland. It works to speed up the rate of your metabolism. Most T4 is bound to carrier proteins in the blood - it is only the free, or unbound, T4 that is active in the body, which is measured in this test. Free T4 is the less active of the two main thyroid hormones. To have an impact on your cells it needs to convert to the more active T3 when your body needs it.
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