While testosterone is generally considered a male sex hormone, also called an androgen, it is still produced in minimal amounts in a women’s ovaries. When testosterone is combined with a woman’s estrogen, this hormone aids in the repair, growth, and maintenance of bone mass, reproductive tissues, and normal human behaviors.
Symptoms of High Testosterone in Women
When a woman is experiencing high levels of testosterone, they may also experience several symptoms that generally affect their physical appearance:
- New or excess amounts of body hair, specifically unwanted facial hair
- Receding hairline or balding
- Unusual amounts of acne
- Development of an enlarged clitoris
- A decrease in breast size
- Voice deepening
- An increase in muscle mass
Additionally, extreme levels of testosterone in women can also cause:
- A change in menstrual cycles
- Low- or inactive libido
- Sudden mood swings
In the most severe cases of high testosterone in women, the hormone imbalance can cause obesity or even infertility.
How to Diagnose High Testosterone
If you have experienced any of the symptoms listed above, it is a good idea to talk with your physician as soon as possible.
Your doctor will conduct a general physical exam to determine if you should receive additional hormone tests. During the exam, your physician will be looking mostly for:
- Signs of abnormal facial hair
- Body or new facial acne
- The recent development of excess body hair
If the doctor concludes that your symptoms are abnormal, your doctor may suggest a blood test to determine if your hormone levels are high. A blood test involves taking a small blood sample and examining it for any abnormal hormone levels.
In most cases, this test will be performed in the morning time, when hormone levels tend to be at their highest.
High Testosterone Treatment Options
Specific treatment plans for high testosterone will depend on the cause. Most treatment options include lifestyle changes and medication. Some common medicines for elevated testosterone in women include:
- Prescription glucocorticosteroids
- Prescription metformin
- Addition or change in oral contraceptives
In many cases, oral contraceptives are an effective treatment option for blocking the formation of testosterone. However, this option will not be viable if you have current plans to become pregnant. Recent research from the American Academy of Family Physicians has found that low-dose prescription birth control such as gestodene, or desogestrel, are the best options. To procure a prescription for low-dose birth control, speak with your doctor or gynecologist.
Additionally, specific lifestyle changes can be quite useful in lowering high levels of testosterone in women. Introducing an exercise or weight loss regimen has been shown to be effective and improve symptoms associated with high testosterone. Some women choose to address the symptoms themselves by removing unwanted facial hair or using facial cleansers to treat acne.
While testosterone is present in small amounts in women naturally, high testosterone can cause many unwanted symptoms. These symptoms include acne, increased body hair, or increased muscle mass. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your general practitioner today to discuss your treatment options.