Testosterone is an androgen, a sex hormone that regulates reproduction, growth, and overall maintenance of a healthy body. Testosterone is usually considered a “male” hormone, but that does not mean it is absent in female bodies.
Women do have testosterone, just in smaller quantities, about 1/10 to 1/20 as much as men. It is produced in the ovaries and adrenal glands.
Function of Testosterone in Women
Testosterone has similar effects on both men and women. Some of these include:
- Bone density: Circulating androgen and estrogen show to have a protective effect on bone and bone density.
- Sex drive: It’s well known that testosterone is a significant contributor to male sex drive, but it also contributes to the female sex drive. Dr. Alan Malanbanan, from Harvard Medical School, has said there is preliminary data that shows testosterone can improve women’s libido.
- Increased muscle mass: Testosterone helps increase muscle protein synthesis, which develops muscle mass at a faster rate.
Meanwhile, testosterone has a few effects that are unique to women:
- Breast health: Studies show that testosterone and DHT (dihydrotestosterone) can inhibit the mitogenic and cancer-promoting effects that estrogen has on breast cells.
- Fertility: Testosterone can have a significant impact on women’s fertility rates, even for women who have had a poor response to IVF cycles.
- Menstrual health: Testosterone can gradually increase the time between periods and make them less severe. Women who have difficult periods can take testosterone to make them more manageable.
- Vaginal health: Testosterone creams can improve sexual responsiveness, decrease vaginal dryness, and mitigate dyspareunia, or experiencing pain during sex.
Unhealthy Testosterone Levels in Women
Even though testosterone levels in women are a fraction of what men produce, it can still have adverse effects if they are too high or too low.
What Causes High Testosterone in Women?
Most causes of high testosterone in women are due to hormonal conditions, although steroid use and abuse can lead to high T levels. Some of these conditions include:
- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH): CAH is a disorder that affects a woman’s adrenal glands and her body’s hormone production. This often leads to an overproduction of androgen.
- Hirsutism: This is a hormonal condition that causes hair growth on the face, back, and chest. It’s caused by an imbalance of androgen hormones, but the severity of the hair growth largely depends on a person’s genetics.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): PCOS usually affects women of reproductive age and can lead to infrequent periods, enlarged ovaries, unwanted body hair growth, miscarriages, and type 2 diabetes.
Symptoms of High Testosterone
- Irregular or absent menstrual periods
- Male pattern baldness
- Excess acne
- Abnormal hair growth on your body
- Reduced breast size
- Enlarged clitoris
- Increased weight gain
- Infertility issues
- Insulin resistance
What Causes Low Testosterone in Women?
Most causes of low T in women also derive from a hormonal imbalance. Prolonged use of certain types of birth control is also known to decrease testosterone production.
- Adrenal insufficiency: Adrenal glands slow their production of testosterone with age. There are also conditions, like Addison’s Disease, that adversely affect hormonal production from the adrenal gland.
- Early menopause: Testosterone levels peak in a woman’s twenties and slowly decline after. Usually, when women reach menopause, testosterone levels are at half their peak.
- Premature ovarian failure: This occurs when ovaries stop functioning normally before the age of 40. Aside from lower testosterone levels, ovarian failure can also cause difficulty getting pregnant, irregular periods, and hot flashes.
- Underactive pituitary gland (hypopituitarism): The pituitary gland is located in your brain and manages the release of hormones in your body. Often, an underactive pituitary gland is caused by a tumor.
Symptoms of Low Testosterone
- Dry skin
- Thin hair
- Decreased sex drive
- Loss of muscle mass
- Increased body fat
- Loss of bone density
- Sexual dysfunction, or difficulty gaining sexual satisfaction
- Lack of energy
A Safe and Effective Way to Regain Testosterone
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