While testosterone is often associated with men, this essential hormone plays a vital role in women's health, too. Women produce testosterone in their ovaries and adrenal glands, albeit in much smaller amounts than men.
In a female body, testosterone (and estrogen) helps maintain bone and muscle mass, influences libido, and plays a role in mood regulation. However, when levels of testosterone become too high in women, it can lead to various physical, mental, and emotional changes.
Read on to discover all there is to know about high testosterone in women, including why it happens and the ten tell-tale signs to look out for.
In both sexes, testosterone plays a key role in sexual health and development. This steroid hormone also plays a role in regulating energy levels, muscle mass, and sex drive.
In males, testosterone production is highest during puberty, triggering the development of primary and secondary sexual characteristics. In women, production of testosterone is highest during the reproductive years, then gradually declines over time.
For men, testosterone is known for its ability to support muscle growth, bone formation, and sex drive. However, women can also experience these benefits of testosterone. Women can thank this hormone for their libido, their gym performance, and their musculoskeletal health. Without this hormone, libido, muscle tone, and bone density tend to noticeably drop.
Elevated levels of testosterone are associated with female hyperandrogenism, a condition characterized by higher-than-normal testosterone production. Testosterone can build up when levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) are low. This is because SHBG binds to excess testosterone and flushes it from your system.
Testosterone is an important hormone for women, providing a range of crucial health benefits. Here are just some of the ways testosterone can help maintain a woman's well-being.
Testosterone helps women to improve their gym performance and build muscle, which is crucial for physical function and overall health. As we age, our muscles tend to go on the decline, resulting in a loss of strength and mobility.
Regular exercise and strength training can help support your muscles, but testosterone is just as important. Increasing testosterone levels can help women build and maintain functional muscles and bones.
Testosterone also plays a crucial role in energy levels. Higher levels of testosterone can help improve exercise performance and reduce fatigue. Low levels of testosterone in women can lead to fatigue, depression, and even a decrease in libido.
By balancing testosterone levels, women can maintain energy levels throughout the day, making it easier to accomplish daily tasks and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Testosterone levels also play a crucial role in sexual function. Women with low levels of testosterone may experience a decreased libido, decreased sexual pleasure, and difficulty achieving orgasm. Increasing testosterone levels can help improve overall sexual function, increase libido, and even improve sexual satisfaction.
As our nurse Brittany Meeker shares, “And then also, the cherry on top is [that] now libido's deficient. I would find that yes, there is most likely a testosterone deficiency.”
Testosterone is crucial for maintaining bone health, and women with low testosterone levels may be at a higher risk of developing bone density concerns.
Essentially, testosterone acts as the control switch that tells the body when to build bones and when to break them down. When we have high testosterone, it sends a signal to our bodies that we need to increase the bone resorption process. Unfortunately, this can leave our bones very brittle and weak and prone to fractures.
Plus, as we get older, our bones naturally lose density, leaving us at risk for fractures and other bone-related injuries. Increasing testosterone levels may help maintain bone density and reduce the risk of breaks.
As you can see, testosterone is a vital part of feminine health. However, there are a number of factors that can cause women to overproduce testosterone.
Here are a few of the most common factors and condition that can contribute to testosterone imbalances in women.
One of the most common causes of high testosterone levels in women is a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS. This disorder leads to the growth of ovarian cysts, which can affect hormone levels in the body.
Women with PCOS may experience irregular periods, acne, weight gain, and excessive hair growth on their face, chest, or back. Treatment usually involves hormone therapy, lifestyle changes, and medication to regulate insulin levels.
As women age, they experience a natural decline in hormones, including testosterone. After menopause, women may experience low testosterone levels, which can lead to a decrease in sex drive, fatigue, and loss of muscle mass.
Fortunately, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help alleviate these menopausal symptoms by boosting estrogen and testosterone levels.
Adrenal gland disorders such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia, Cushing's syndrome, and adrenal tumors can cause high levels of testosterone in women. This is because the adrenal gland is responsible for producing sex hormones, including testosterone.
When the gland doesn't function correctly, it can cause deficiencies in these hormones, leading to testosterone imbalance in women.
Certain medications, such as oral contraceptives and corticosteroids, can affect testosterone levels in women. Birth control pills, for example, may lower testosterone levels, while corticosteroids can increase testosterone levels. It's important to talk to your doctor about any medications you're taking to determine if they could be affecting your hormone levels.
Now that you're in the know about all things testosterone, let's take a look at some of the signs and symptoms associated with high T in women.
One of the most noticeable symptoms of higher-than-normal testosterone in females is acne breakouts. High levels of the hormone can cause acne, oily skin, and even excessive facial or body hair growth.
It's important to note that having acne doesn't automatically mean you have high testosterone levels, but it is something to keep an eye out for.
If you have sudden, severe acne breakouts, it could be a sign that you need to get your hormone levels checked.
Changes in libido can also be a sign of high testosterone in females. Women with high levels of the hormone may experience an increase in sex drive, or they may experience the opposite – a decrease in libido. If you notice any drastic changes in your sex drive, consider seeing a health professional to discuss your hormone levels.
Hormone imbalances can also affect your menstrual cycle. If you have high levels of testosterone, you may experience heavy, irregular periods or even missed periods. This is because testosterone can disrupt the delicate balance between estrogen and progesterone. If this is a recurring problem, it's important that you seek medical advice.
High testosterone levels can cause mood swings and irritability. This is because the hormone can affect the neurotransmitters in your brain, leading to sudden changes in mood, which can be difficult to manage.
If you feel like you are experiencing mood swings and irritability, it may be worth exploring whether or not you have a hormone imbalance.
Although testosterone is essential for reproductive health, too much of it can interfere with the delicate balance of hormones needed for fertility. In men, high levels of testosterone can cause the testes to shrink and reduce sperm production. This can result in low sperm count and poor sperm motility, which can make conception difficult.
In women, high testosterone can disrupt the menstrual cycle and lead to irregular ovulation, making it more difficult to conceive. Needless to say,testosterone is critical for both sexes when it comes to fertility.
Weight gain is another sign of high testosterone in women. When the hormone is out of balance, it can cause changes in metabolism and hunger levels, leading to weight gain, especially in the abdominal area. As a result, you may find yourself struggling to lose weight, even with a balanced diet and regular exercise.
If you experience sudden, unexplained weight gain, it may be worth getting your testosterone levels checked. Weight gain can lead to a number of health problems, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, so it's important to address the issue as soon as possible.
Excessive hair growth, or hirsutism, can also be a sign of high testosterone in women. This condition can cause unwanted hair to grow in excess on the face, chest, abdomen, and back. It's important to note that not all women with high testosterone experience this symptom, but it's something to keep an eye out for.
High testosterone levels in women can also lead to poor sleep quality. Testosterone is responsible for regulating our circadian rhythms and helping us fall asleep, so when it's out of balance, it can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle.
Unfortunately, testosterone is made from pregnenolone, which is also the precursor to estrogen and progesterone. If your body is using more pregnenolone to create excess testosterone, there’s a chance your progesterone levels may be low.
This can have a negative impact on your sleep, since healthy progesterone levels are heavily associated with feeling tired. As our nurse Katie Joe says, “It's like, I tell my patients it's a seesaw. We want those energizer and relaxing hormones balanced. You're ideally lacking progesterone, which is that calming, sleepy hormone that a lot of women [have, and] with young women, they're not experiencing that.”
Just like hair growth, hair loss can also be an unexpected side effect of high testosterone in women. When the hormone is off-kilter, it can interfere with the production of estrogen, which helps keep our hair follicles healthy. As a result, you may notice thinning or balding patches on your scalp.
Fortunately, the male-pattern hair loss associated with high testosterone is usually reversible. Managing your hormone levels can help to restore balance and prevent further hair loss.
If you're concerned about high testosterone, there are a few things you can do to support healthy levels. Here are some tips.
If you suspect that your testosterone levels are imbalanced, talk to a healthcare professional at Thrivelab about bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT). This holistic treatment can help restore balance and reduce any symptoms you may be experiencing.
Not sure if HRT is right for you? Schedule an initial telehealth consultation with one of our board-certified providers. We're here to help you find the best solution for your symptoms so you can feel your best and thrive at every age.
When it comes to testosterone levels, exercise is vital. Studies have shown that women who engage in regular physical activity have temporarily higher testosterone levels than those who are sedentary. The key is to find a workout routine that works for you. Consider strength training, which has been shown to boost testosterone levels in women.
Zinc is a vital mineral that plays a role in hormone production. Studies have shown that women who consume enough zinc can have higher testosterone levels than those who don't. Foods rich in zinc include oysters, beef, spinach, and pumpkin seeds.
Stress can wreak havoc on your body, including your hormone levels. When you're stressed, your body produces cortisol, which can interfere with testosterone production. Try to take steps to manage your stress, such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or spending time outdoors.
Last but not least, make sure you're getting enough quality sleep. This is essential for restoring balance to your hormones and keeping testosterone levels in check. It’s generally recommended to aim for seven to nine hours of restful sleep each night to support healthy testosterone levels (and overall health).
If you're struggling to catch Zzzs, try creating a relaxing bedtime routine and avoiding screens before bed. Additionally, you may want to talk to your doctor about any underlying sleep issues that could be causing you to toss and turn (think insomnia).
It's essential to remember that having high levels of testosterone is not necessarily harmful. Many women go through life with elevated levels and have no issues. However, if you're experiencing any of these symptoms or have concerns about your hormonal balance, it's best to seek medical attention.
A doctor can work with you to determine the underlying cause of your symptoms and develop a plan to manage your hormonal levels. Don't be afraid to speak up and advocate for your health.
At Thrivelab, we understand how important it is to help patients find solutions to their symptoms. We are ready to work together and find that root cause. That’s why we provide bioidentical hormone replacement therapy to help you take back your health and get back to living the life you love.