To measure your testosterone level, you can take a simple blood test. Here we explain in-office tests and at-home testosterone test kits, and what your results may mean.

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Testosterone (sometimes shortened to “T”) is often associated with males, whose bodies produce the hormone in large amounts. But female bodies produce testosterone as well. For both sexes, having too little or too much testosterone can be problematic.

Only a testosterone test can measure how much of the hormone is in your body and determine whether your level is within a healthy range.

Read on to learn more about testosterone, what are considered normal levels, and what a high or low testosterone test result may mean.

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.

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Testosterone is a male sex hormone (or androgen) present in both sexes. In males it’s produced in large amounts in the testes, and is responsible for physiological male sex characteristics as well as secondary traits, including:

  • body hair
  • muscle mass
  • voice deepening
  • bone density
  • sperm production
  • red blood cell production
  • sex drive

In females, testosterone is produced in much lesser quantities in the ovaries, adrenal glands, and fat cells. It’s converted into the female sex hormone estradiol, and is involved with:

  • hormone production
  • bone, breast, menstrual, and vaginal health
  • fertility
  • sexual desire

Testosterone production in both sexes in strongest in puberty and early adulthood, and begins to decline around age 30, continuing as we age.

While testosterone levels change naturally over time, at any one point, people can have too much or too little testosterone than what’s supported for their age and health needs.

For example, low testosterone in males may lead to lower sex drive and energy level, erectile dysfunction, less hair growth, weight gain, feelings of depression, and decreased bone density. High testosterone levels in males are associated with aggression, excessive facial and body hair, acne, and increased blood pressure.

Low testosterone in females can also lessen sexual desire, and affect mood, concentration, and energy levels. High testosterone levels may impact hair growth, including both baldness and excess body hair, trigger acne, cause irregular menstruation, and may make it difficult to conceive. It’s also associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

What are signs of low testosterone?

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

  • decreased sex drive
  • inability to achieve an erection (erectile dysfunction)
  • inability to conceive a child
  • overall tiredness
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Whether male or female, if you’re experiencing symptoms of low or high testosterone (T), you may consider taking a testosterone test.

Because testosterone is integral to sperm production, a male might also consider a testosterone level test if he and his partner are having difficulty conceiving.

Additionally, regular testosterone level checks are important for transgender men and transmasculine people using female-to-male testosterone therapy.

How they work

Testosterone tests measure total testosterone, or testosterone that’s both bound to proteins and floating free, and free testosterone, which can be useful in ruling out certain medical conditions.

These blood tests can be administered by a medical professional in a lab, or through an at-home testosterone test kit, which requires you to mail your test sample to a lab for analysis. Results are typically available within a few days.

For males under age 45, a testosterone test is usually performed in the morning when T levels are highest. Sometimes, the test needs to be retaken to confirm the measurements.

If you experience difficulties with needles or blood samples, a saliva test may be an alternative. Though, several studies have confirmed that saliva offers only a relatively accurate measurement of testosterone levels. As such, supplemental tests, such as serum testing, are necessary to ensure that salivary test results are accurate.

A normal range testosterone level in males is about 300 to 800 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL). For females, it’s between 15 ng/dL and 70 ng/dL.

But for males and females, the average testosterone level by age decreases as we get older.

For example, after age 30, a male’s testosterone levels on average decrease 1% per year but can be as much as 2% per year. In men older than 80 years, 50% of them have low T levels. According to the American Urology Association, in men, levels below 300 ng/dL should be classified as low T, or hypogonadism.

In females, testosterone levels also begin to drop more rapidly after age 30, and are significantly reduced postmenopause. This change is associated with higher levels of body fat, decreased muscle mass, diminished bone density, lower sexual desire, and may be linked to increased risk of breast cancer.

Abnormally high or low testosterone levels in males and females can indicate other serious conditions. High T levels, for example, can indicate ovarian or testicular cancer. Low T levels can indicate chronic illness or a problem with the pituitary gland, which releases hormones.

If your testosterone test results show that your testosterone level is low, this may be a result of aging. But it could also be due to underlying conditions, including:

  • obesity
  • sleep apnea
  • cardiovascular disease
  • diabetes
  • testicular disorders

In some cases, low testosterone in females may also be caused by low estrogen or menopause as there’s some overlap in the symptoms.

Results showing high testosterone levels could be an indication of:

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

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 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 aren’t within a standard range, you can discuss potential treatment options, including testosterone replacement therapy. You may also consider natural ways to increase testosterone levels.

You can test your testosterone levels with a testosterone test. These simple blood tests can be administered by a medical professional in a lab or through an at-home testosterone test kit.

If you have a hard time with needles or blood samples, a saliva test may be an alternative. However, several studies have confirmed that saliva offers only a relatively accurate measurement of testosterone levels. As such, supplemental tests, such as serum testing, are necessary to ensure that salivary test results are accurate.

The signs of low testosterone in males may include reduced sex drive, low energy or fatigue, feelings of depression, irritability, hair loss, erectile dysfunction, reduced lean muscle mass, and weight gain.

A testosterone test is the only way to know for sure if you have low testosterone levels. But you may suspect you do if, as a male, you have symptoms including:

  • reduced sex drive
  • low energy or fatigue
  • feelings of depression
  • irritability
  • erectile dysfunction
  • weight gain

As a female, you may notice symptoms including:

  • decreased sexual desire
  • tiredness
  • low mood
  • difficulty concentrating

 

At this time there are no age-specific testosterone reference ranges for males or females at specific ages. But there are ranges over a lifetime by which testosterone levels are measured and compared at any age.

For males, the average testosterone level range is 300 to 800 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL).  For females over age 19, it’s between 15 ng/dL and 70 ng/dL.

Testosterone levels for males and females will be on the highest end of the respective ranges in puberty and young adulthood, peaking at 18 or 19, and declining as much as by 1% to 2% per year after age 30.

After menopause, typically between the ages of 45 and 55, testosterone levels in females decrease significantly.  While in men older than 80 years, low testosterone level, or less than 300 ng/dL, is common.

 

A testosterone test can help reveal whether any unusual symptoms, such as hair loss or excess body hair growth, mood changes, or changes in sexual desire, are related to high or low testosterone level.

It may also reveal whether underlying conditions, health issues, aging, or lifestyle choices are affecting your testosterone production.

Testing can be done in a lab with a doctor’s order. Or, an at-home testosterone test can be a convenient first-step in understanding your testosterone level. No matter which test method you choose, you’ll want to consult with your doctor to discuss your results and to go over options for potential next steps.