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High Testosterone Levels in Women

Women with high testosterone

Testosterone is a male sex hormone, or androgen, produced in a woman’s ovaries in small amounts. Combined with estrogen, the female sex hormone, testosterone helps with the growth, maintenance, and repair of a woman’s reproductive tissues, bone mass, and human behaviors.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the normal range of testosterone levels for females is:

Age (in years) Testosterone range (in nanograms per deciliter)
10–11 < 7–44
12–16 < 7–75
17–18 20–75
19+ 8–60
 

The range for males is higher, depending on age:

Age (in years) Testosterone range (in nanograms per deciliter)
10–11 < 7–130
12–13 < 7–800
14 < 7–1,200
15–16 100–1,200
17–18 300–1,200
19+ 240–950
 

An imbalance of testosterone in the female body can have damaging effects on a woman’s health and sex drive.

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Symptoms

Symptoms of too much testosterone in women

Too much testosterone can cause symptoms that effect a woman’s physical appearance including:

  • excess body hair, specifically facial hair
  • balding
  • acne
  • enlarged clitoris
  • decreased breast size
  • deepening of the voice
  • increased muscle mass

Overly high levels of testosterone in women can also cause:

In more severe cases of testosterone imbalances in women, high testosterone can cause infertility and obesity.

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Diagnosis

Diagnosing high testosterone

If you notice any of the symptoms listed above, you should talk to your doctor.

Your doctor will perform a physical examination based on your symptoms to determine whether or not you need additional tests. During the examination, your doctor will look for these symptoms:

If your symptoms seem to be abnormal, your doctor will suggest a testosterone test to measure hormone levels in your blood. To perform this test, your doctor will draw some of your blood and have it examined for hormone levels.

The test is typically performed in the morning when testosterone levels are at their highest. Prior to performing this test, your doctor may ask you to stop taking any prescriptions that could affect the test results.

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Causes

Causes of high testosterone in women

Various diseases or hormonal disorders can cause hormonal changes in women. The most common causes of high testosterone levels in women are hirsutism, polycystic ovary syndrome, and congenital adrenal hyperplasia.

1. Hirsutism

Hirsutism is a hormonal condition in women that causes growth of unwanted hair, specifically on the back, face, and chest. The amount of body hair growth is highly dependent on genetics, but this condition is primarily caused by an imbalance of androgen hormones.

2. Polycystic ovary syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is another hormonal disorder caused by an excess of androgen hormones in women. If you have PCOS, you may have irregular or prolonged periods, unwanted body hair growth, and enlarged ovaries that may not function properly. Other common complications of PCOS are:

3. Congenital adrenal hyperplasia

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is a disorder that directly affects the adrenal glands and the production of the body’s hormones. In many cases of CAH, the body overproduces androgen.

Common symptoms of this disorder in women include:

  • infertility
  • masculine characteristics
  • early appearance of pubic hair
  • severe acne
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Treatment

Treatment options

Treatment for high testosterone depends on the cause, but generally includes medication or lifestyle changes. Medications used to treat high testosterone include:

  • glucocorticosteroids
  • metformin
  • oral contraceptives
  • spironolactone

Oral contraceptives have been shown as effective treatment for blocking testosterone, but this treatment method will interfere if you have immediate plans to get pregnant. According to research from the American Academy of Family Physicians, low-dose birth control that use low levels of norgestimate, gestodene, and desogestrel are the best choices. All of these medications are only available by prescription. To obtain one, you must meet with your doctor or gynecologist.

Making certain lifestyle changes can also affect testosterone levels. Starting an exercise or weight loss program can help because losing weight can improve symptoms. Some women choose only to treat their symptoms, including shaving or bleaching hair and using facial cleaners for acne or oily skin.

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Outlook

Outlook

If you’re experiencing symptoms of high testosterone levels, meet with your doctor. They will be able to find the cause and come up with a treatment plan specific to you.

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