In addition to controlling the development of secondary traits, sex hormones participate in multiple functions of the body, such as bone growth or the production of blood cells.
Sex hormones are chemicals synthesized in the sex organs. In the ovary, in the case of women, or in the testicles, in the case of men.
Its synthesis is directly conditioned by the action of another hormone: GnGH (gonadotropin-releasing hormone) in the pituitary gland, which, in turn, secretes gonadotropins. These are, finally, those in charge of stimulating both the testicle and the ovary.
The precursor of sex hormones is cholesterol, which is differentiated into female and male sex hormones. These hormones can be synthesized in order to improve the quality of life in patients with pathologies such as breast and prostate cancer or fertility and uterine dynamics.
Within the female sex hormones, we find estrogens and progestagens, both synthesized in the ovaries. As for the male, we find androgens, synthesized in the testicles.
Female sex hormones
Estrogens are responsible for the differentiation of female secondary characters. They are also responsible for controlling the menstrual cycle and promote bone growth in women.
When they are secreted, the synthesis of progesterone receptors in the uterus increases. This will favor a series of actions that we will explain later.
Estrogens also have metabolic and cardiovascular actions, as they retain sodium, salt, and water. The retention Sodium has implications for menopausal women because, having resorptive capacity, promote bone loss. For this reason, many women must undergo hormonal treatment.
When a person undergoes high-dose estrogen treatment, these sex hormones act as contraceptives, in addition to:
- Decrease glucose tolerance.
- Promote the synthesis of coagulation factors and plasminogen and decrease the synthesis of prothrombin III. Therefore, the thrombotic risk increases.
- Increase the synthesis of renin and angiotensin and promote the release of aldosterone. These people should have their blood pressure controlled, as there may be changes in its value.
progestagens or gestagens
As we have mentioned before, the release of estrogens immediately causes the number of progesterone receptors to increase, which favors the interaction between the two.
When progesterone binds to its receptors, the direct consequence is that the amount of binding between estrogens and their receptors decreases. This factor is good, as progesterone prevents endometrial hyperplasia.
As we have said, estrogens are the sex hormones responsible for controlling female secondary characteristics, such as the uterus. Therefore, if estrogens maintain their activity or are increased, this disease can develop.
In this way, gestagens transform the estrogen endometrium into a secretory endometrium.
On the other hand, progesterone is the sex hormone that prepares the uterus for pregnancy. Thus, when its levels decrease, menstruation appears. It also favors the synthesis of milk in the breasts.
Unlike estrogens, this hormone blocks aldosterone receptors. And also, during ovulation, body temperature increases by 0.5ºC.
Male sex hormones
Androgens have masculinizing actions. They favor the development of the male genitalia and that of secondary characters. On the other hand, synthetic androgens can be used in diseases such as:
- Male hypogonadism.
- Anemias: increase the synthesis of erythropoietin in the kidney due to its anabolic action.
- Breast carcinoma: in cases refractory to other treatments or as an adjunct.
The anabolic action is due to the fact that they increase protein synthesis, thus increasing muscle mass.
In short, among the functions of this sex hormone we can find the stimulation of spermatogenesis in the seminiferous tubules. In addition, it favors the maturation of the spermatid in the sperm.
It also promotes the growth of the penis, scrotum and sex secreting glands, as well as that of the testicles. Finally, it increases hair growth and libido, that is, sexual desire.