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Language matters

In this article, we use “male and female” to refer to someone’s sex as determined by their chromosomes and “men and women” when referring to their gender (unless quoting from sources using nonspecific language).

Chromosomes determine sex, and gender is a social construct that can vary between time periods and cultures. Both of these aspects are acknowledged to exist on a spectrum both historically and by modern scientific consensus.

The hormone testosterone (T) is often associated with masculinity, but the female body can also make testosterone. Yet too little or too much testosterone in men or women can indicate severe health problems.

In males, the testicles make testosterone. In females, the ovaries produce the hormone.

Testosterone is responsible for traits such as:

  • body hair
  • muscle mass
  • strength
  • sex drive
  • mood

Males with low testosterone levels might notice a reduction in these traits, while females with too much testosterone might notice an increase in these traits.

You may even want to take a testosterone level test if you believe your testosterone levels are not within the standard range. What’s more, testosterone helps males make sperm, so they may wonder about their testosterone levels if they and a partner are having trouble conceiving.

Most testosterone is attached to proteins in the blood, but some float freely. That means two types of testosterone can be measured:

  • Total testosterone: a measure of testosterone that is both attached to proteins and free
  • Free testosterone: testosterone that is not attached to proteins; can be specifically measured when ruling out certain medical conditions

A standard range for testosterone level in males is about 300 to 800 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL). For females, it’s between 15 and 70 ng/dL. Still, testosterone levels can change throughout your life.

Testosterone levels can decrease naturally due to your age or other health conditions.

After age 30, a male’s testosterone levels on average decrease 1% per year but can even go up to 2% per year. Some symptoms of low testosterone, particularly erectile dysfunction, are commonly seen in men over age 30. Low testosterone levels have often been observed in people with obesity, no matter their age.

The most common testosterone-related problem in males is hypogonadism, also called low testosterone. To be diagnosed with hypogonadism, a person must not have only low testosterone levels but also experience symptoms of low testosterone.

Your testosterone level may be abnormally low if you have one or more of the following symptoms:

Females with too much testosterone may grow facial hair, develop a deeper voice, or experience decreased breast size. Too much testosterone in females can also cause acne.

One possible cause of too much testosterone in females is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS can make it difficult to get pregnant and interfere with menstruation.

Abnormally high or low testosterone levels in males and females can indicate other serious conditions.

High T levels can indicate ovarian or testicular cancer. Low T levels can indicate chronic illness or a problem with the pituitary gland, which releases hormones.

In infant males and females, signs of abnormal testosterone levels may be more extreme. Testosterone tests are often ordered for young males and females who are not developing properly or when parents notice delayed puberty.

Young males with low T may grow slowly, with no body hair and poorly developed muscles. When they have high T, they may enter puberty early and robustly. Young females with high T may have delayed menstruation or too much body hair.

Getting testosterone levels checked usually requires a blood test. The test is usually performed in the morning when T levels are highest. Sometimes, the test needs to be retaken to confirm the measurements.

Before the test, your doctor may ask you to stop taking any prescriptions that could affect your testosterone levels. Some medications that can artificially increase your testosterone levels include:

  • steroids (but T levels can fall rapidly after stopping them)
  • barbiturates
  • anticonvulsants
  • androgen or estrogen therapies

Some medications, including opiates, can also decrease your testosterone levels. If you’re taking any of the medications above, tell your doctor. They’ll ensure that your testosterone test results are accurate.

If your test results are low, you can talk with a doctor to confirm the results. They can discuss how to best address your testosterone levels.

Even if your T levels are within range, but you are experiencing symptoms, it is still worth talking with your doctor because it might indicate an underlying issue. In this case, your doctor will want to perform a physical genitourinary exam to also rule out any other potential causes.

Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may also perform a physical examination. If you’re male, your doctor may perform a physical if they notice:

  • a loss of facial hair
  • a loss of height
  • signs of gynecomastia, an abnormal increase in breast tissue size
  • abnormal weight gain

If you’re female, your doctor may perform a physical if they notice:

  • abnormal facial acne
  • abnormal hair growth on your lips or chin (hirsutism)
  • abnormal hair thinning or balding on the head

Testosterone home testing kits are widely available from several companies, including LetsGetChecked, Everlywell, and Progene. They use your blood or saliva to test your hormone levels. After taking the test, you’ll send your sample to a laboratory for testing.

Several studies have confirmed that saliva offers a relatively accurate measurement of testosterone levels and should continue to be clinically tested to confirm that saliva samples are a reliable replacement for blood samples.

Some research suggests salivary testing is not fully reliable, though. Supplemental tests, such as serum testing, are necessary to ensure that salivary test results are accurate.

Interested in other options for at-home testing?

Our reviews and brand comparisons cover top at-home testing kits, so you can feel confident in your decision to manage your health from home.

If you or your doctor test your testosterone levels, and they are low, this may be a result of aging, but it could also be due to underlying conditions, including:

  • chronic diseases
  • injury
  • use of certain medications
  • genetic conditions

Results that indicate testosterone levels are too high could be an indication of:

  • potential tumors
  • early puberty in young males
  • CAH in children and babies

Typical testosterone levels in men

It’s important to speak with your doctor after receiving your results to better understand what they mean for you and your health. If your doctor has any concerns, they may consider a full diagnosis and treatment plan.

Levels between 300 and 800 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) are the most common levels.

According to the American Urology Association, in men, levels below 300 ng/dL should be classified as low T or hypogonadism.

Testosterone levels typically decrease with age, so it’s not unusual to have lower levels at an older age. In fact, 50% of men over age 80 may have low T levels.

Ask your doctor about testosterone tests if you suspect you have below-standard hormone levels or if you notice developmental issues in your children. A wide range of treatments are available.

Some treatments include testosterone pellet implants and an oral testosterone supplement approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The most common treatment for low testosterone is testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). TRT is given as an injection, a skin patch, or a topical gel containing testosterone that replaces the testosterone missing from your body.

Though this treatment is common, TRT is known to have some risks and side effects, including:

If you’re taking any medications or supplements (such as steroids) that abnormally affect your testosterone levels, your doctor may ask you to stop taking them or suggest an alternative.

Depending on your specific situation, your doctor may also recommend lifestyle changes, such as exercising to build muscle and weight management through dietary changes, which can help balance your testosterone levels.

  • Exercise and weight training have been shown to increase total T levels. Cardiorespiratory fitness, such as high intensity interval training (HIIT), has the most significant impact, according to research. Heavy resistance training in males is also shown to increase testosterone. It’s unclear if weight training helps increase testosterone in females.
  • A balanced diet may also reduce the risks of low T. Research has found that diets high in processed foods, like bread, pastries, and restaurant meals, could typically predict low T levels. Conversely, a diet with higher intakes of homemade foods, dark green vegetables, balanced fat sources, protein, and carbs may help even out hormone levels.
  • Reducing stress can be good for more than your heart. It may help improve testosterone levels, too, according to research. Stress causes the body to release cortisol, a steroid hormone that can lead to weight gain, muscle weakness, and severe fatigue.
  • Getting restful sleep can potentially help balance your T levels, as some research suggests a link between low testosterone levels and sleep apnea. Improving your sleep may also help reduce erectile dysfunction symptoms.

You may want to consider seeing a doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms that you believe are the result of high or low testosterone levels.

If you took an at-home testosterone level test and your results showed levels outside the standard range, it may be worthwhile to make an appointment to see a doctor to discuss the results.

Your doctor can help confirm the testosterone test results, or they may order additional tests to understand what factors could be causing your low or high hormone levels. After that, they may also conduct a physical exam to check for signs of low or high T.

If the levels are not within a standard range, you can discuss treatments, including natural ways to change T levels.

How much does a testosterone test cost?

Testosterone test costs can vary. If you go to your doctor, the test cost may vary depending on your insurance coverage.

If you opt for an at-home test, a singular testosterone test may cost between $50 and $70.

Some companies like LetsGetChecked and Everlywell offer full hormone tests that measure testosterone, as well as other hormones like cortisol and DHEA. But these tests are more expensive and can range from $130 to $200.

Should women take a testosterone test?

If you are a female experiencing high or low testosterone symptoms, you may consider taking a testosterone test.

Abnormal testosterone levels in females can indicate larger health issues such as PCOS, abnormal or nonexistent menstrual periods, or infertility issues.

In some cases, low testosterone in females may also be caused by low estrogen or menopause as there is some overlap in the symptoms. A testosterone test and other hormone tests can help doctors determine a diagnosis.

When should I consult a doctor about my testosterone levels?

If you are concerned about your reproductive health or are experiencing any of the above-mentioned symptoms of having high or low testosterone, it may be a good idea to speak with a doctor.

You can explain your symptoms to your doctor, who may suggest a testosterone test or other hormonal tests to help diagnose your symptoms and create a treatment plan.

You may want to test your testosterone levels if you notice any unusual symptoms, such as hair loss, weight loss, or acne, especially if you’re under 40. A test can help reveal whether any underlying conditions, health issues, or lifestyle choices are affecting your testosterone production.

In many cases, testosterone levels can vary based on age, diet, medications, or even your activity level. A testosterone test may indicate that your levels are merely a result of the natural aging process or several other factors you can personally regulate.

You can book an appointment with a primary care doctor in your area using our Healthline FindCare tool.