High testosterone can cause changes in mood, body hair, and more. A doctor can help determine the best course of treatment, which may include medications and lifestyle changes.

Testosterone (T) is a crucial sex hormone that’s most well known for stimulating puberty and the development of secondary sexual characteristics, such as body hair growth and sperm production, in people with penises.

T has a role in numerous processes around the body, including the maintenance of bone and muscle mass and the storage and metabolism of body fat.

T typically occurs in much higher levels in people with penises, but it’s also present in the bodies of people with vulvas in much lower concentrations. And having balanced T levels is necessary for optimal health and growth, regardless of sex.

Let’s get into how you can recognize the signs of high T levels in people with penises and people with vulvas, how it’s diagnosed, and what to do about it.

In some cases, high testosterone levels can cause mood changes, including increased irritability or aggression.

Changes in sexual function and libido may occur. For people with a vulva, high testosterone levels can lead to an irregular menstrual cycle, increased muscle mass, or an enlarged clitoris.

Because testosterone is involved in the production and secretion of oil, it could also cause acne and breakouts for both males and females.

Changes in hair growth — including excess body hair growth or balding — are also common with excess testosterone levels.

Let’s start with an overview of the common symptoms of high T levels in people with penises:

1. Acne

Acne may be a sign of high T when there isn’t any other obvious cause, like excessive sweating from working out, according to a 2016 review of research.

2. Blood pressure changes

Changes in your blood pressure, including high blood pressure (hypertension) and low blood pressure (hypotension), can lead to:

  • dizziness
  • headaches
  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • fainting

3. Sexual health

Changes in your sexual health could be a sign of abnormal T levels. This can include:

However, ED and reduced sexual desire are signs of low T — not high T. If you experience them, you may still want to get your T levels tested.

4. Body hair

You might also notice changes in your head and body hair, including excessive body hair growth and early male pattern balding on your head.

5. Mood

You could also experience changes in your mood due to high T. This may include new or worsening:

  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • depression

Other signs of high T in people with penises can include:

Now, let’s get into the symptoms of high T levels in people with vulvas:

1. Body hair

You may notice abnormalities in body hair, like the growth of more hair than is typical for you on your face, chest, and back (hirsutism). You could also experience balding from having too many hormones called androgens in your body.

2. More muscle

You may notice an increase in muscle mass throughout your body.

3. Irregular periods

You may get your period at irregular intervals. For example, going months without one, having two in a month, or having a period that lasts longer than usual.

4. Sexual health

Because testosterone can influence sexuality, you may notice changes in your sexual health if you have high testosterone levels, including a reduced sex drive, vaginal dryness, or difficulty getting pregnant.

5. Mood

People with vulvas may also notice changes in their mood. These can include:

  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • depression

Other signs can include:

  • abnormal episodes of acne
  • larger clitoris than is typical for you
  • reduction in your breast size
  • voice getting deeper than usual
  • having trouble conceiving (infertility)
  • gaining weight without any changes in diet or activity

Common causes of high T levels in people with penises include:

Common causes of high T levels in people with vulvas include:

Though some people believe that masturbating can decrease testosterone levels, there isn’t any evidence to support this.

In fact, though more research is needed on the long-term effects of masturbation and testosterone levels, most studies have found that masturbation could actually cause a temporary increase in testosterone levels.

For instance, a 2021 study found that increased masturbation frequency was associated with increased testosterone levels in people with a penis.

Another small study in young males showed that masturbation paired with visual stimulus led to increased concentrations of free testosterone.

However, researchers also noted no significant change in the ratio between free testosterone, total testosterone, and cortisol, a type of stress hormone.

Keep in mind that most available research is older and focused primarily on people with a penis.

Therefore, additional studies are needed to understand how masturbation frequency may affect testosterone levels in the long run for all people.

There are two primary methods a doctor may use to diagnose high T levels:

  • Physical examination: A doctor will ask questions about your overall health and look closely at any physical symptoms of high T, such as body hair growth and sex organ size (breasts, testicles, etc.)
  • T blood test: A doctor will take a sample of your blood using a hypodermic needle and send it to a laboratory for analysis. This gives you a definitive measurement of T in your blood to confirm high T levels. This test is usually done in the morning when T levels are at their highest.

Treatment for high T levels depends on the cause.

Treatments for people with penises

Eliminating any external source of high T levels is often the first line of treatment for high T caused by medication or steroid use.

Stop taking anabolic steroids immediately and consult with a doctor to monitor any changes in your T levels. If you’re on T supplements or TRT, talk with a doctor about how your T levels might respond if you’re taken off those medications.

You may just want to treat the symptoms of high T levels. Keeping unwanted excess hair shaved or using facial cleaners for acne may help control your symptoms.

Making lifestyle changes can also help if you’ve been receiving T supplementation because you have low T.

Getting regular exercise and eating a diet of whole, nutrient-dense foods can help you naturally boost T levels. This can also help you lose excess weight caused by T imbalances and get more of the nutrients you need to support T production in your body.

If a tumor is causing your T levels to spike, a doctor may recommend surgery to remove the tumor. If the tumor is cancerous, a doctor will discuss the next steps with you to determine the best course of treatment.

Treatments for people with vulvas

Treating your symptoms may be an easy initial way to reduce the effects of high T on your body.

You may decide to shave or bleach any unwanted hair or use a facial cleanser for acne to help reduce breakouts.

Exercise and a moderate diet can also help lower your T levels and reduce symptoms of certain associated conditions, such as PCOS.

Try exercising regularly with about 30 minutes of light to moderate daily exercise. Also, try eating whole, nutrient-dense foods to lose weight or ensure you get the nutrients you need.

A doctor may recommend medications to lower your T levels, including:

  • low doses of oral contraceptives (birth control pills)
  • metformin (Glucophage, Glumetza, Riomet)
  • glucocorticosteroids
  • spironolactone (Aldactone)

Birth control pills are known to block T levels from getting too high. Some common birth control pills used to treat high T levels include desogestrel, gestodene, and norgestimate.

Low dose contraceptives aren’t recommended if you’re planning to get pregnant.

You should also see a gynecologist before you start taking any birth control to see if there are any risks of side effects or complications from the changes that contraceptives cause in your hormones.

See a doctor as soon as possible if you experience any of the following symptoms that may mean you have high T levels:

  • chest pain
  • difficulty breathing
  • having trouble speaking
  • dizziness
  • fainting episodes
  • abnormal changes in your HDL (good) cholesterol
  • having a stroke
  • having a heart attack
  • swelling in your hands or legs
  • having trouble sleeping or breathing while you sleep

High T levels can be an issue for both people with penises and people with vulvas.

Talk with a doctor if you notice any symptoms of high T. The cause is usually treated easily, and catching it early minimizes the risk of any complications from T imbalances.