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What Happens If Testosterone Is High In Women? Causes, Symptoms And Treatments Of Hyperandrogenemia

Testosterone is a hormone that plays a vital role in the human body. It is predominantly involved in sexual development in men such as regulating their sex drive, development of muscle mass and strength, deepening of the voice, development of penis and testes and production of sperm.

The hormone is present in women too, but not as a dominating hormone, unlike progesterone and oestrogen which are in high amounts. Testosterone is produced in the ovaries in small amounts and helps with increasing sexual desire, repair women's reproductive tissues, promotes hair growth, improves musculoskeletal health, reduces the risk of heart diseases and risk of cancer. [1]

Though testosterone serves certain vital functions in women, high levels of it can cause adverse effects like reduction in fertility and sex drive and other medical conditions.

In this article, we will discuss how high testosterone in women affects them, along with its causes, symptoms, treatments and other details.

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What Is The Normal Level Of Testosterone In Women?

The serum testosterone level in women with menstrual dysfunction, acne or hirsutism is 12.4 to 15.8 nanograms per deciliter or ng/dL. The upper limit of testosterone that provides 84 per cent sensitivity of detecting hyperandrogenemia (high testosterone level) is 28 mg/dL, says a study. [2]

According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, the normal total testosterone levels in women is 15 to 70 ng/dL, while in men it's 280 to 1,100 ng/dL for men. [3]

The levels may vary depending on the age, health history, any medical condition and throughout the day. Some studies consider testosterone to be highest in the morning and highest in the case of tumours of the ovaries.

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What Causes High Testosterone In Women?

There are several factors that can cause an increase in testosterone hormone in women. Some of the causes are:

1. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)

Androgens are a group of sex hormones in males and testosterone is the major one. Androgen access is one of the features of PCOS, a condition that affects around 6-8 per cent of women of reproductive age.

PCOS causes disruption of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) and increases the production of luteinizing hormone (LH), along with insulin. The LH is responsible for the release of eggs. Therefore, the high amount of LH and insulin together causes ovaries to increase testosterone levels, thus causing hyperandrogenemia. [4]

2. Congenital adrenal hyperplasia

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is an autosomal recessive disease or say, a group of genetic diseases that affects the adrenal gland and cause deficiency of enzymes that are led to the production of glucocorticoids, mineralocorticoids and sex hormones. As testosterone is also produced by the adrenal gland, the mutation in its gene due to CAH can interfere with its regulation and production and cause excess testosterone production. [5]

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3. Tumours

Some cancer types in women such as ovarian, endometrial and breast cancer can produce too many sex hormones such as testosterone, in case they have become large or have spread to distant sites. High levels of testosterone often help diagnose the tumour in women. The cause of the development of tumours in women is multifactorial, including genetic components. [6]

4. Intersex condition

An intersex condition could also be the cause of high testosterone levels in women. It is a group of conditions in which there is a dissimilarity between internal and external genitalia, such as a person may have both the sex organs as females genitalia externally and testicular tissues internally. [7] The presence of male tissues in females may cause an increase in the production of the male hormone testosterone.

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5. Steroid use

Anabolic steroid contains testosterone and related substances that help promote the growth of skeletal muscles, improve athletic performance and enhance cosmetic appearances. Though anabolic is a prescribed drug, it is an addictive drug which if taken illegally by women, can cause reproductive changes and cosmetic changes, including causing high levels of testosterone. [8]

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What Are The Symptoms Of High Testosterone In Females?

Most of the symptoms of high testosterone are related to male characteristics in women such as:

  • Deepening of the voice.
  • Growth of muscles in bulk.
  • Growth of access of hair on the face, chest and back.
  • Premature development of sexual hair. [9]
  • Other symptoms include

    • Acne
    • Hirsutism
    • Malke pattern baldness
    • Menstrual irregularity [10]
    • Decreases breast size
    • Clitoral enlargement
    • Low sex drive
    • Mood changes
    • Weight gain
    • Infertility
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      What Happens If Testosterone Is High In Females?

      High levels of testosterone in females are associated with many health problems such as:

      • Infertility
      • Gestational diabetes
      • Type 2 diabetes
      • Insulin resistance [11]
      • Dyslipidemia or high cholesterol
      • Obesity
      • Heart diseases [12]
      • Other metabolic syndrome diseases
      • Fatty Liver [13]
      • Problems in pregnancy
      • Osteoarthritis
      • A study has shown that high testosterone levels can rarely cause hepatic adenoma, cholestatic jaundice and prostatic hypertrophy. [11]

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How To Treat High Testosterone In Women?

Some of the treatment methods to treat hyperandrogenemia or high testosterone in women include:

  • Medicine: A study talks about treating hyperandrogenism in women with low doses of cyproterone acetate and ethinyl-estradiol. These drugs help treat hirsutism and acne symptoms in women. [12]
  • Other medications: It includes medicines like metformin, oral contraceptives and glucocorticosteroids.
  • Hair removal treatment: It includes treatment methods like laser therapy and electrolysis that helps in the removal of excess of hair developed due to the condition.
  • Treating underlying conditions: If any medical condition like tumours is causing high testosterone production, it needs to be treated or managed to lower the production of testosterone.
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    How To Treat High Testosterone Naturally?

    Lifestyle changes are one of the primary ways to naturally reduce testosterone levels. It includes:

    • Maintaining a healthy weight by performing regular exercise.
    • Eating a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables and less fats and carbs.
    • Quitting smoking.
    • Making ways to reduce stress in life by performing meditation or yoga.
    • Including certain healthy herbs like liquorice and spearmint.
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      To Conclude

      High testosterone levels in women is not a life-threatening condition, but can cause certain long-term fertility and reproductive problems if not managed. Consult a medical expert if you notice any of the aforementioned symptoms and get them treated at the earliest.