Testosterone is known as the ‘male hormone’ (also called androgens), but women also have small amounts of it. The hormone is primarily produced in the ovaries and adrenal glands. Women require a healthy level of testosterone as a part of various hormones that maintain energy levels, mood, sex drive, and the smooth running of bodily functions.
What Is the Role of Normal Levels of Testosterone in Women?
Normal testosterone levels range from 15 to 70 ng/dL of blood. This is responsible for various functions in women, which includes:
Normal levels of testosterone support normal bone growth and strength. Too much or too little of this hormone can harm this growth. Stronger bones reduce the risk of injury and developing osteoporosis, which is common among aging women. Studies show that both estrogen and testosterone are needed for bone health.
Testosterone has neuroprotective abilities in women. This is an effect that results in the recovery or regeneration of the nervous system, its cells, and its functions. It protects women from developing disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
It is also linked to better performance in spatial-related tasks and mathematical activities.
Testosterone is widely known as a male sex hormone; however, women’s sex drive also depends on the levels of testosterone. This is like how men have low levels of estrogen in their bodies.
Testosterone is a part of a group that controls desire, fantasy, and thoughts about sexual intercourse. It also provides energy for sex in women. Boosting testosterone levels is associated with increased sexual desire in women, especially those going through menopause with low libido and little to no sexual arousal.
Testosterone also plays an important role in the reproductive system and fertility. Although women only need small amounts of the hormone, it promotes the growth of follicles, which is a structure that holds and releases eggs during ovulation.
Causes Of Low Testosterone in Women
Testosterone production in women often depends on their age. When they reach 40 years old, the levels of testosterone are decreased by half.
The ovaries are the main producer of testosterone, so the decrease in hormones that come with menopause means that affected women may experience low testosterone levels. Although the decrease in sex drive has been linked to a drop in estrogen, studies show more connections between low testosterone and low libido.
Another reason for low testosterone could be a genetic fault that affects the ability to make compounds called DHEA and DHEA-S, which turn into testosterone. Some women can also be experiencing a decline in enzymes that break down these compounds into testosterone.
Other causes of low testosterone include:
- Problems with the adrenal glands
- If you’ve had surgical removal of the ovaries
- Taking oral estrogen, as estrogen can lower testosterone
- Early menopause
- Issues with the pituitary gland, where it cannot produce certain hormones
Symptoms of low testosterone levels:
- Muscle weakness
- Low sexual desire and satisfaction
- Sudden changes in mood and emotions
Causes Of High Testosterone in Women
Various hormonal disorders or diseases can cause drastic changes in women. The most common causes of high testosterone are the following:
Polycystic ovary syndrome
Also known as PCOS, it is a hormonal disorder caused by too high levels of androgens. This causes irregular or prolonged periods, enlarged ovaries that do not function properly, and overgrowth of body hair. Other complications also include infertility, endometrial cancer, or type 2 diabetes.
This condition causes uncontrolled control of body hair, especially on the face, chest, and back. This is usually dependent on genetics and causes an imbalance of hormones in the body.
Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH)
This disorder affects the adrenal glands, which are responsible for producing testosterone. In most cases, women who have CAH have very high levels of testosterone. This results in symptoms such as masculine characteristics and severe acne.
Symptoms of high testosterone can affect a woman’s physical appearance, which includes:
- Increased muscle mass
- Excessive facial hair
- Enlarged clitoris
- Deepening of the voice
It can also cause:
- Low libido
- Irregular periods
- Changes in mood
Severe cases can also cause infertility and obesity.
How Can I Check My Testosterone Levels?
If you notice that you have symptoms of high or low testosterone, then you have to check your testosterone levels. Usually, you can do this at the doctor’s office, but there are also several home-testing kits.
This can be bought online or from the pharmacy. You have to send a sample (blood or saliva) to the required laboratory and wait for the results.
Treatment Options for High or Low Testosterone
Low testosterone levels can be treated by the following:
- Patches and pellets
- Gel formulations
These options are usually used for men who have a higher testosterone level than women. They should only be used for extreme cases of low testosterone.
Women can also opt for a natural testosterone booster, which contains DHEA. This is broken down into testosterone so that the supplement can increase the amount of testosterone in the body. Check out our list of the top testosterone boosters for women here.
On the other hand, treatment for high testosterone usually depends on the cause but includes medication such as:
- Oral contraceptives
Oral contraceptives may not be an effective treatment if you’re trying to fall pregnant. All these medications are only available by prescription. Changing your lifestyle and including foods that lower testosterone can also improve symptoms.