What Are Signs of Too Much Testosterone in Women?
If you think of testosterone, you probably think of men. It’s thought of as a ‘male’ hormone. Truthfully, both men and women produce testosterone, but women produce much less of it than men do. In some instances, women can show signs of too much testosterone.
What Is Testosterone?
Testosterone is a hormone that belongs to a group of hormones known as androgens. In men, testosterone regulates sperm production, libido, muscle mass, bone density, and more. Women need smaller amounts of testosterone, but it carries out some of the same functions. It regulates the libido, muscle mass, bones density, and cognitive function.
What Are the Signs of Too Much Testosterone in Women?
Hormone levels fluctuate throughout the day. Generally speaking, women have more testosterone in the morning than they do in the evening. Sometimes, testosterone levels can become much higher than normal. There’s a number of signs that can indicate that your testosterone levels are too high.
- Irregular menstrual cycle – high levels of testosterone can cause periods to become irregular, or even cause them to stop completely.
- Excess body hair – testosterone can cause excess hair growth.
- Hirsutism – Hirsutism is a little different to excess body hair. It is excessive hair but it follows a male pattern, leading to darker and coarser hair on areas such as the chin, chest, arms, legs and back.
- Receding hair line – higher testosterone can cause balding hairlines, and receding hairlines.
- Changes in body shape – some women can experience changes to the shape of their body, increased muscle mass, and decreased breast size.
- Changes in skin – women with high testosterone levels can have changes to their skin, such as excess oil, or acne.
- Other changes in the body – high testosterone can also cause other changes in the body. The clitoris can enlarge, and the voice can deepen and change.
- Psychological changes – excess testosterone can cause a number of psychological changes.
What Are the Causes of High Levels of Testosterone?
There are a few possible causes of high testosterone levels in women. Some are relatively minor, and easily treated, whereas others are more severe. If you are experiencing the symptoms of high levels of testosterone, make sure to check in with your doctor, as they can identify the underlying cause, and you can start treatment for it.
Some of the most common causes of high testosterone levels in women are:
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a common and chronic hormonal condition that affects approximately 10% of women around the world. It can be present from puberty, however, it’s often not diagnosed until the 20’s or 30’s. Symptoms can include higher levels of testosterone, hirsutism, irregular periods, the presence of ovarian cysts/follicles, infertility, weight gain, acne, anxiety and depression.
There is not one single test for PCOS, however, there are tests which can indicate a diagnosis of PCOS, along with the medical history. Treatment options can include lifestyle changes and medications that you can take.
Hirsutism is often linked as a symptom of other hormonal, or endocrinological conditions. It may be linked to genetics, but it’s often a sign of another condition such as PCOS or Cushing syndrome. Hirsutism is the proper name for excess body hair in women. The hair growth tends to follow a male patterns, such as on the face, back and chest, and the hair is much darker and coarser than expected.
Male pattern hair growth is the most common symptoms of hirsutism, but other symptoms are possible as well. Some women experience balding, acne, and a deepening voice.
Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH)
Congenital adrenal hyperplasia, or CAH, is the medical term for a group of genetic conditions that affect the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands produce hormones such as cortisol, aldosterone, DHEA, and testosterone. CAH sufferers don’t have the ability to produce the enzymes that regulate the release of the hormones from the adrenal glands. This means that the glands release more testosterone than needed, and less cortisol. Some women can have nonclassic CAH, which is mild, with fewer symptoms. Others can have classic CAH, which is more severe, and with more symptoms.
The symptoms of CAH can include a deeper voice, irregular periods, excessive hair growth, early appearance of pubic hair, and rapid growth in childhood, but a short stature as an adult.
There is no cure for CAH, but there are treatment options for the symptoms. Treating the symptoms can dramatically improve a patient’s quality of life.
What Are the Treatment Options for High Levels of Testosterone in Females?
There are several treatment options for high levels of testosterone, and your physician may recommend one or a combination of several:
Changes In Lifestyle
High levels of testosterone can be impacted by the lifestyle. Changes to the diet and exercise regime can improve the symptoms. Weight loss has been linked to improvements in testosterone levels.
Most physicians will prescribe some medications to help ease the symptoms. Depending on the underlying cause, your physician may recommend medications such as anti-androgens, the birth control pill or others. Make sure to closely follow the advice and instructions of your doctor and healthcare team when taking medications.
Some women opt to use a method of hair removal. There are several hair removal methods that may be helpful in dealing with excessive male pattern hair growth. Shaving, depilatory creams, and laser hair removal may be able to reduce the hair growth. Other women prefer to bleach the hair which reduces its appearance.
If you are experiencing symptoms of high levels of testosterone as a woman, make sure to contact your doctor and go in for an appointment, so they can identify the underlying cause and start treatment for it.