Testosterone may seem like an exclusively ”male” hormone. But it actually plays a super important function in the overall health of both sexes. Women have about one-tenth of the level of testosterone in their bodies when compared to men. Despite this, a female testosterone imbalance can still wreak havoc.
Like many people may assume, testosterone is not only important for reproduction. It’s an essential hormone for red cell production, muscle growth and maintenance and so much more. But how does a woman know when her testosterone levels could be out-of-sync?
To learn more about testosterone and a hormonal imbalance in females, this blog outlines all the important stuff.
It’s 100 percent normal for hormone levels to fluctuate throughout your lifetime and from one person to the next. Some women (and men) may produce more testosterone than others or lower levels than others. Much of the time, this is affected by genetics, lifestyle, diet, and underlying conditions.
But what would happen if neither sex produced any testosterone at all? Well, some of our most important bodily functions would be completely compromised, including:
In women, testosterone plays an equally big role in terms of sexual health and reproduction as it does in men. This hormone is key in regulating breast health, menstrual health, vaginal health, sex drive, and fertility.
Testosterone is known as an androgen hormone. In the female body, it’s converted into estrogen, and in men, it remains mostly as testosterone. It’s produced by the ovaries, adrenal glands, and fat cells in the skin.
In order to gauge whether a female has unusually high or low testosterone levels, it’s important to understand what is considered the normal range.
As mentioned, women tend to produce far lower amounts of testosterone than men. Normal levels range from 15-70 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dl). However, these levels can fluctuate from day to night. Generally, testosterone levels are highest in the morning in both women and men.
In contrast, normal male testosterone levels range from 280-1,100 ng/dl.
When levels of testosterone in the blood exceed the normal maximum, or fall below the normal minimum range, this is cause for concern. In short, this is a sign that a female could experience symptoms of hormonal imbalance.
But before you have your blood levels tested, there are few tell-tale signs that could point to a testosterone imbalance:
Women with unchecked testosterone imbalance are also at greater risk of unexplained weight gain, obesity, and infertility.
So, what causes these types of hormonal imbalances?
Most of the time, testosterone imbalance is caused by an underlying condition that must be assessed by a medical professional. It’s super important to understand that testosterone therapy for men will not work the same way for women.
Somewhere along the line, testosterone is being over or under-secreted by any of the key glands in the body that produce this hormone. This is commonly initiated by any of these conditions:
This is one of the most common hormonal disorders today that impacts the reproductive health of women. Research suggests that 5-10 percent of women in the U.S. are affected by PCOS — that is about 1 in 10 women.
The exact cause of PCOS is currently still unknown. But medical experts believe that genetic predisposition and insulin levels play a leading role. PCOS is a condition that can greatly affect testosterone levels in women.
Some common symptoms include excess body hair, irregular, infrequent, or very long cycles of menstruation, mood fluctuations, persistent acne, bloating, and more.
This is a genetic or inherited disorder the affects the adrenal glands and their production of testosterone. Generally, women who live with this disorder have higher-than-normal levels of the hormone, due to a missing enzyme that regulates testosterone production.
There are two types of CAH — non-classic and classic-CAH. Some common symptoms include a deep voice, excess body hair, facial hair, irregular or absent menstruation, severe acne, an enlarged clitoris, and rapid growth in childhood.
The hallmark symptom of this condition is an abundance of hair growth in women, which includes male-pattern hair growth on the back, chest, and face. It is also a hormonal disorder related to genetics.
Hirsutism relates to excessive amounts of testosterone in the blood, and can also cause severe acne, premature balding, a deep voice, reduced breast size, and increased muscle mass.
It’s worth noting that all of the above conditions cause high levels of testosterone in the blood. While excess testosterone is a little more common, there are instances where women can suffer from low or depleted testosterone.
Some of the more common signs include muscle weakening, fatigue, reduced sex drive, irregular menstruation, a loss of bone density, vaginal dryness, disrupted sleep, weight gain, and more.
Low testosterone levels are also closely linked to many issues with infertility. Some of these symptoms may sound all-too-familiar and could relate to many other conditions, too.
This is why it’s so important for a doctor to test for other conditions before diagnosing low testosterone. Some of these could be thyroid disease, depression, anxiety, and chronic stress.
In many cases, low testosterone levels are a result of menopause and issues related to secretion in the ovaries, pituitary, or adrenal glands.
Hormonal imbalance in females can make life seem intolerable. But you don’t have to live with the side-effects of hormonal imbalance — there is a myriad of treatments today that can help you get your life and health back-on-track.
At Chicago Weight Loss and Wellness Clinics, we offer specialized hormone therapy to help you find the balance you’re looking for. Learn more about our hormone replacement therapy and get in touch for more on what to expect.
Dr. Anand Thakkar is a licensed Internal Medicine physician. He is Board Certified in Anti-Aging & Regenerative Medicine. He has been a member of the teaching faculty for students at Chicago Medical School and has been featured on ABC, FOX, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes as a recognized authority in wellness, fitness & nutrition, weight loss, anti-aging, hormones & metabolic medicine, holistic medicine, lifestyle coaching and women’s & men’s health.
Learn more about Dr. Thakkar or Chicago Weight Loss and Wellness Clinics here.