Testosterone is mainly produced by the male sex hormone called androgens. However, this sex hormone can still be found in small quantities in women’s ovaries. The ovaries produce estrogen and testosterone hormones. Testosterone is essential as it is necessary for developing the body and reproductive tissues in women.
Additionally, this hormone is essential for developing bone and muscle mass, regulating sex drive, and other body functions. However, higher than average testosterone level can cause several complications in women. Studies have shown that working out can increase testosterone levels in women temporarily.
Women with high testosterone levels usually suffer from acne, irregular periods, mood changes, and change in appearance. Keep reading this article to learn more about high testosterone in women, the causes, and possible treatments.
What Are Hormones?
Hormones are chemical substances secreted and exchanged between body parts. In other words, hormones are the body’s chemical messengers. The endocrine glands produce most of our hormones.
The endocrine glands comprise a special group of cells, including adrenal glands, pituitary, thymus, thyroid, pineal, and pancreas. Some examples of the hormones produced by the body include; oxytocin, prolactin, insulin, and estrogen.
Hormones affect our bodies in different ways, including our growth and behavior. For example, estrogen affects the development of sexual characteristics in women. Also, this hormone plays a vital role in the normal functioning of the uterus and breasts.
Hormone secretion, especially reproductive hormones, is affected by several factors, including age, time, eating habits, stage of the menstrual cycle, and others. Everyone constantly experiences hormone shifts throughout the day.
A hormonal imbalance indicates your endocrine system isn’t functioning normally. Insufficient or overproduction of hormones can both lead to several health complications in the body.
What You Need to Know About Reproductive Hormones
The testicles and ovaries are the primary producers of sex or reproductive hormones. The testicles produce androgens like testosterone, while the ovaries produce hormones like androgens, estrogen, and progesterone.
Puberty and the ability to develop sexual characteristics, produce sperm, and get pregnant are all influenced by reproductive hormones. Note that the amount at which these hormones are secreted varies during a person’s life. Testosterone levels typically decline as we grow older.
Women experience a significant shift in their sex hormone levels during the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. On a related note, the menstrual cycle is more complex than just your period. It also involves the flow of hormones needed for the normal functioning of the reproductive system.
If the body does not create sex hormones, the development of reproductive organs will be inhibited. Also, you are likely to suffer from low sex drive. If you’re still not clear about the different types of sex hormones, here’s a quick rundown:
The ovaries and adrenal gland produce androgen, which is formed from cholesterol. A higher than normal level of androgen in women can cause acne, irregular periods, and excess body hair growth.
Progesterone is produced in low amounts during the menstrual cycle and in high quantities during pregnancy. It plays an important role in the development of female breasts. Plus, it is the primary hormone in the first trimester of pregnancy.
The ovaries make most of the estrogen in women and are associated with menstruation. Plus, this hormone impacts several body functions like muscle development, and urinary tract health. Additionally, estrogen affects the way we look, our body fat composition, and even our hair and skin health.
Furthermore, estrogen comprises a group of related hormones, including estradiol, estriol, and estrone. Estradiol is the primary sex hormone in childbearing women and comprises developing ovarian follicles. This female sex hormone is essential for developing female characteristics, bone density, and sexual functioning.
Also, estradiol is linked to most gynecological issues, including fibroids, endometriosis, and female cancers. Estriol is the main hormone you’ll find during pregnancy, and it is made from the placenta. On the other hand, estrone can be found all over the body, and it is the most common estrogen after menopause.
Do Estrogen Levels Fall or Rise at Menopause?
Women’s estrogen levels fall at menopause—most women between the ages of 40 and 55 experience a significant decline in estrogen. Furthermore, younger women who have had their ovaries surgically removed may experience a substantial reduction in estrogen levels, resulting in surgical menopause.
Women go through a transitional phase before menopause known as perimenopause. Also, women experience their first natural decline in estrogen levels and other physiological changes during this period. Symptoms women experience during perimenopause include weight gain, hot flashes, irregular menstruation, moodiness, and vaginal dryness.
What Role Does Testosterone Have in a Woman’s Health?
Testosterone plays an essential role in both men’s and women’s health. Although androgens are primarily male hormones, women also produce them in small amounts in the adrenal glands and ovaries.
Androgens like testosterone support many body functions as long as levels are within a normal range. Before we go in-depth on the effects of high testosterone levels, let’s look at how this hormone benefits women’s health.
- It Maintains Sex Drive
One of the most important roles this hormone plays is that it helps maintain sex drive. Additionally, experts believe this hormone provides women with the energy they need for sex.
- Helps to Maintain Healthy Bones
Testosterone is essential in the development and maintenance of bone mass. Too little or too much testosterone can affect bone growth. Furthermore, both estrogen and testosterone are necessary for bone formation.
- Better Mood
One of the most typical symptoms of people suffering from low testosterone levels is mood swings. Plus, people with low testosterone levels usually suffer from fatigue, depression, and irritability.
Testosterone helps to regulate mood and promote healthy energy levels. In contrast to those with normal hormone levels, women with abnormal testosterone levels will suffer from irregular or poor moods and have inconsistent energy levels.
- Healthier Heart and Reduced Inflammation
Testosterone boosts the production of healthy and new blood cells, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. On a different note, normal testosterone levels also help reduce inflammation.
Some benefits of these anti-inflammatory properties include joint and back pain relief and a lower risk of certain types of cancer. Additionally, testosterone products have been successfully used to treat breast cancer and hypogonadism.
As you can see, the production of testosterone can benefit the female body in many ways. These are just a few key roles testosterone plays in women’s health. Other benefits of normal testosterone production include:
- Supports the health of female reproductive tissue
- Decreases vaginal atrophy in postmenopausal women
- Helps maintain female reproductive tissue
- Produces a neuroprotective effect in women
- Decreases body fat
What Happens When Your Body Produces Too Much Testosterone
Before we begin, note that the normal testosterone levels in females are 15 to 70 ng/dL. Blood tests can help you accurately measure your testosterone level and other androgens. Also, note that your testosterone levels are low if your number falls below 15 and high if your number is higher than 70.
Low testosterone production can cause complications such as weight gain, cardiovascular disease, etc. On the other hand, high testosterone levels can also cause various changes or health complications. You may begin to notice specific symptoms when your body begins to produce excess testosterone.
If you suspect your friend or family member is suffering from high testosterone levels, here’s how you can check.
One of the easiest ways to detect elevated testosterone levels is to check for pimples. Excess testosterone production can cause an overproduction of sebum. Sebum is a waxy and oily substance that protects and coats the skin.
Overproduction of this substance can affect normal sebaceous gland functions, creating an acne outbreak. However, note that other conditions like excessive sweating can also cause acne. Therefore, ensure you look out for other symptoms before making any conclusions.
- Changes in Appearance
Most women suffering from high testosterone levels usually experience significant appearance changes. These changes include abnormal facial hair, excess hair growth, larger clitoris, and reduction in breast size.
If you’re still unsure about your testosterone levels, see if you’re having trouble sleeping. Testosterone imbalance can disrupt breathing and sleeping. According to an article published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, a significant increase in testosterone concentrations can shorten your sleep time.
- Changes in Blood Pressure
Women with high testosterone levels are at a higher risk of heart attacks and blood pressure. Plus, changes in blood pressure may lead to dizziness, nausea, headaches, and fatigue.
These are just a few complications that happen when testosterone levels rise. Other symptoms to look out for are irregular periods, infertility, insulin resistance, deep voice, and obesity. If you are experiencing high testosterone symptoms, we recommend seeking professional medical advice before making any critical decision.
Why Do Estrogen Levels Rise
Various conditions or diseases can elevate women’s testosterone levels. For example, women produce estrogen hormones in high amounts during a healthy pregnancy. Plus, women going through puberty experience an initial surge of estrogen and testosterone production.
Besides pregnancy and puberty, several other conditions can cause a hormone imbalance in women. Let’s have a look at these conditions:
Most women experiencing abnormal testosterone production suffer from hirsutism. Hirsutism is a hormonal disorder that causes women to experience unwanted hair growth on the face, chest, back, and other regions. The main cause of this disorder is an imbalance of androgen hormones.
These unwanted hairs are usually thicker and more visible than normal ones. Androgen plays an important role in the development of male sexual characteristics. Women also produce this hormone, albeit in lower amounts.
A higher than normal production of androgens causes an overstimulation of the hair follicles, leading to hirsutism. However, note that your genetics play a significant role in how much hair growth you experience.
Furthermore, note that even the mildest form of hirsutism can cause a significant growth of unwanted hair on the lower abdomen, chin, upper lip, and around the nipples. However, note that these unwanted hairs are usually the same color as your scalp hair.
Hirsutism can progress to the point that mature hair grows on the shoulders, chest, upper back, and upper abdomen.
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOs)
4-20% of women of childbearing age worldwide suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome. PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects many women in their reproductive years. Furthermore, this condition has been directly linked with an imbalance in female reproductive hormones.
Although women can develop this condition at a young age, it usually goes undiagnosed until they are over 20. An imbalance in female reproductive hormones can cause an abnormal increase in testosterone production.
Women suffering from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome usually experience prolonged periods, infertility, miscarriages, unwanted hair growth, endometrial cancer, etc. Although the exact cause of this condition is still unknown, experts believe that genetic factors play a significant role. Therefore, if you have a sister or mother with this condition, you have a high chance of developing it.
Additionally, experts strongly believe that excess insulin production increases a woman’s risk of developing Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. The body uses insulin, a hormone generated by the pancreas, to convert sugar in food into energy. Insulin resistance is common in women with PCOS and inhibits the body’s ability to reduce blood sugar levels properly.
Note that the body will produce more insulin when the blood sugar level becomes too high. Excessive insulin production causes a significant rise in testosterone levels, resulting in some PCOS symptoms.
Diabetes is another cause of abnormal testosterone levels in women. This condition affects the body’s ability to convert food into energy properly. Diabetic patients experience difficulties producing the right amount of insulin.
Studies show that an inactive lifestyle and obesity are the two leading causes of type-2 diabetes in the United States. Note that diabetes causes a surge in testosterone production. However, controlling this condition is a positive step to a lower testosterone level.
As a tip, regular exercise and weight management can help you regulate insulin levels. On the other hand, lack of exercise can cause testosterone levels and weight gain fluctuations.
- Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH)
CAH is the umbrella term for a group of inherited adrenal gland disorders. The adrenal glands produce most of our aldosterone and cortisol hormones. These hormones are essential in managing blood pressure and metabolism. Furthermore, the adrenal glands trigger the production of the male sex hormones DHEA and testosterone.
People with CAH lack one of the necessary enzymes to regulate these hormones. This results in the release of excessive testosterone and too little cortisol. A mild CAH is known as non-classic CAH, and a severe CAH is known as classic CAH.
Although there is currently no known cure for CAH, several medical treatments can help lessen symptoms and improve quality of life. Symptoms of congenital adrenal hyperplasia in women include deep voice, severe acne, excess body hair, irregular menstrual cycle, etc.
How Do You Know if Your Testosterone Levels Are High
If you suspect symptoms similar to the ones in this article, head to your doctor for a testosterone test. Your doctor will either perform a physical examination, blood test, or ultrasound to determine your condition. Let’s have a look at how each method works:
- Physical Examination
During a physical examination, the doctor will ask questions and observe your body for high testosterone-related symptoms. The doctor will check for symptoms such as acne, body hair, facial hair, deep voice, decreased breast size, and others.
Plus, you may have to answer questions such as are you experiencing mood swings, irregular menstrual cycle, or trouble sleeping. Also, you may undergo a manual or pelvic ultrasound examination if the doctor suspects PCOS. This examination helps the doctor identify any abnormalities in your pelvic region.
An ultrasound examination is one of the best ways to check for PCOS. Your doctor can evaluate this condition using an MRI or computerized tomography (CT). An ultrasound examination scans your uterus and ovaries for signs of PCOS.
- Blood Test
A blood test is another common and reliable way to check for elevated testosterone levels. If your doctor suspects high testosterone-related symptoms, he may collect your blood sample and order a blood test. You can test for high testosterone and other androgens using blood samples.
This test is usually done in the morning when the body produces most of its testosterone. Furthermore, your doctor may advise you to stop taking any prescriptions before the test because they may affect the results. Also, this test can detect PCOS or a menstrual stoppage caused by anorexia nervosa or excessive athletic training.
Treatment Options for High Testosterone Levels
There are different ways to treat high testosterone. However, the proper treatment option depends on the cause of the condition. Treatment for high testosterone usually involves medication and lifestyle changes. Let’s take a closer look at how doctors address issues with testosterone imbalance.
Several medications can help treat issues related to high testosterone levels. Your symptoms or the condition’s cause will determine what type of drugs your doctor will prescribe for you. For example, your doctor may prescribe a progestin to improve fertility and regulate periods.
Furthermore, you may be given eflornithine or spironolactone to slow down excessive hair growth. Doctors also use glucocorticosteroids to reduce inflammation and oral contraceptives to block excess testosterone production. Oral contraceptives are a great option for people suffering from hirsutism and high testosterone.
However, ensure that the contraceptives contain low doses of desogestrel, gestodene, and norgestimate. To be safe, ask your doctor to prescribe this drug for you as some contraceptives may trigger side effects.
As long as you aren’t trying to conceive, oral contraceptives are one of the most effective treatments for blocking excessive testosterone production.
- Hair Removal Treatments
Since females don’t normally produce facial hairs, a condition like hirsutism can cause embarrassment or distress. Hair removal treatments may help restore your confidence if you suffer from excessive hair growth. Additionally, you can go for medical or cosmetic treatments that may help reduce or prevent the development of unwanted hair follicles.
Hair removal treatments like shaving, plucking, waxing, and using depilatory creams can help you take care of mild hirsutism hair problems. However, the downside of these treatments is that they may cause skin irritation and require multiple treatment sessions. You may need to wax every four to six weeks to keep new hairs from growing.
Furthermore, you can deal with hairs from severe hirsutism using advanced treatments like electrolysis and laser therapy. However, while these treatments can help you control unwanted hair, they won’t fix an underlying hormonal condition.
Electrolysis involves using electricity to generate heat to prevent the growth of hair follicles. This method involves carefully inserting a needle into each hair follicle. Next, a pulse of electric current is transferred from the needle to your skin, damaging the follicles and preventing new hair growth.
However, the downside of using this technique is that it requires multiple treatments to achieve desired results. Plus, you may have minor scarring on your skin after treatment. On the other hand, laser therapy is more popular than electrolysis and requires light to generate heat.
This technique involves using laser light to destroy hair follicles. Laser light therapy is suitable for people with sensitive skin and produces longer-lasting results than shaving or waxing.
However, the downside of this technique is that it is time-consuming, expensive, and requires multiple treatments. Plus, only qualified professionals can perform such procedures.
- Lifestyle Changes
Another effective way to lower testosterone levels in women is by making lifestyle changes. Changing your eating habits, staying active, and joining a fitness or weight loss program can help improve PCOS symptoms. Studies show that losing 5-10% of body weight may help reduce testosterone levels in women and prevent other complications.
Medication, hair removal treatment, and lifestyle changes are common ways to manage high cholesterol levels. However, note that some treatments or medications may trigger an adverse reaction and other associated risks.
If you or anyone is suffering from hormonal imbalance, ensure you consult a professional physician before trying any medical treatment.
Natural Ways to Lower Testosterone Levels in Women
Besides medication and hair removal treatment, there are several natural ways to manage excessive testosterone production. Here are some steps you can take to lower your testosterone levels naturally:
- Balance Blood Sugar
One of the best ways to manage testosterone production is by balancing your blood sugar level. As you may already know, insulin resistance and elevated insulin contribute to testosterone imbalances. You can balance your blood sugar by changing your eating habits and lifestyle.
Eat more real food and add more low-glycemic fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and high-quality protein to your diet. Additionally, combining your food intake with fiber, chromium, and Myo-inositol supplements may help balance blood sugar.
- Drink Green Tea
Studies show that regular consumption of green tea can increase sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). This protein aids in the binding of excess testosterone in the body. Also, green tea contains powerful antioxidants that help prevent tumor growth.
- Increase Your Herb Intake
Herbs like nettles, spearmint tea, licorice, reishi mushroom, and white peony have been clinically proven to improve symptoms of high testosterone in women. To be safe, seek medical advice about the specific herb and dosages suitable for your unique needs.
- Increase Your Zinc Intake
A large percentage of people suffer from zinc deficiency, and this mineral is essential for regulating the production of testosterone. Furthermore, zinc supports ovarian function, a healthy immune system, and the healing of damaged tissues.
Consider zinc as a testosterone blocker for PCOS. Zinc-rich foods include chickpeas, cacao, hemp seed, mushrooms, pumpkin seed, and avocado. Animal foods, oysters, and grass-fed beef are also rich in zinc.
Conclusion: Complications From High Testosterone In Women
Testosterone levels can fall outside the normal range, and this can cause several health complications. Although testosterone is primarily a male reproductive hormone, it is also produced in women’s ovaries.
Testosterone is essential to women’s health. This hormone helps in the development of female sexual characteristics, female reproductive tissues, muscle mass, and others. However, conditions like congenital adrenal hyperplasia and PCOS can cause a surge in testosterone production.
High testosterone levels in women can cause several symptoms, including mood changes, deepening of the voice, infertility, etc. If you feel you have any high testosterone-related symptoms, we recommend visiting a doctor for a test. The doctor will first perform a physical examination and then order an ultrasound or blood test to confirm the diagnosis.
If the doctor confirms the diagnosis, he may prescribe medications or therapies such as hair removal treatment or oral contraceptives. However, note that the treatment option depends on your symptoms or the cause of the disorder.
Lastly, note that there are several medications and treatment options to help you manage testosterone levels. To be safe, get sound medical advice before accepting any treatment option.