High Testosterone in Females : Everything You Need to Know
by Benjamin Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert
Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.
What you need to know about high testosterone in females
When you think of testosterone, your mind will probably bring to mind images of bodybuilders and sportsmen that are a little too competitive. It's possible that you think about a confident Lothario with a libido to die for or angsty guy who can't relax.
Men with elevated hormone levels will exhibit these symptoms.
Women rarely hear testosterone discussed. While some women are concerned about testosterone levels that are too low, others may be worried when they reach too high levels.
We shall cover the following points:
- What happens if you have higher testosterone levels than normal?
- What symptoms are associated with high testosterone in women?
- Is it harmful to your health?
The importance of Testosterone for both men and women
The androgen hormone group includes the naturally occurring steroid, testosterone (T).
The testes and the adrenal glands of women and men produce it.
In both sexes, testosterone is regulated by the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis. It is an intricate and complex system which tightly regulates the release of hormones.
First, a brain gland called hypothalamus releases a hormone known as GnRH.
GnRH is transported a small distance below the pituitary gland. GnRH is like an alarm clock, forcing pituitary hormones to be released.
LH is transported through the bloodstream and reaches the glands that produce testosterone.
Female hormones and the HPG axis
Women are affected by the HPG system in a much greater way. The system regulates estrogen and progesterone, the two primary female hormones.
These hormones both work in conjunction to regulate your menstrual cycles.
FSH is a hormone that stimulates egg production in preparation for fertilization.
The hormone estrogen also regulates your menstrual cycles, and promotes sexual traits such as:
- Breast development
- Hair growth in pubic area
- Helps you maintain a your smaller, feminine frame
- Increases bone health and metabolic health.
What is the importance of Testosterone in females?
The testosterone hormone regulates anabolic as well as androgenic traits in men. It promotes thick, muscular muscles, hair growth and an elongated face.
Androgen hormones still play a role in women. When the balance between T and too little is achieved, you will benefit from:
- Maintains muscular strength and power
- Enhances the libido by increasing the sensitivity in erogenous areas
- Promoting overall wellbeing
- Increases assertiveness and competitiveness
This doesn't necessarily mean more is better. The estrogen level in women is usually higher than that of men.
What is the normal level of testosterone in females?
You don't require as high a level of androgen hormones.
Women with low T levels are measured at between 15 and 70 ng.dL, while men have normal T values of 300 to 1,000 ng.dL.
The average female has 10-15 times less testosterone compared to males.
It is kept in normal ranges because testosterone is closely regulated by several glands, enzymes and precursor hormones. When your body feels that you are producing too much testosterone, it will slow down the release of GnRH.
It is known as a feedback negative system.
This system is not always effective, which can lead to some women producing too much testosterone.
Although less than 8 percent of women have excessive levels of androgen, symptoms are serious.
A high testosterone level in women can cause irregular menstrual periods as they are unable to release eggs from their ovaries. It does this by inhibiting estrogen and progesterone and stopping them from performing their jobs properly.
It can lead to male characteristics, such as:
- Hair growth that is excessive (hirsutism).
- Hair loss, oily skin and acne are all cosmetic effects.
- Clitoris enlarged
- Increased muscle mass, masculine characteristics and changes in body shape
- Voice gets deeper
- A change in mood or frustration, irritability
Why do women have high testosterone levels?
PCOS affects 10-20% women in the world [1.]
This is an inherited disease with strong genetics.
Due to an increase in androgens, women with PCOS may stop ovulating and develop facial hair or acne.
The pituitary releases too much of a hormone called luteinizing, which causes an imbalance in the levels of androgen and female hormones such as estrogen and progesterone.
If the imbalance in hormones is not corrected, it can cause long-term issues such as metabolic problems and infertility.
Both testosterone and insulin are anabolic hormones.
Insulin resistance and diabetes in females trigger an increased release of testosterone. Although the cause of insulin resistance is not known, it is clear that this leads to an abnormal release of androgens from ovarian tissue.
Being obese may also be a factor in high T, since insulin resistance can also result from weight gain.
It is especially evident for women with high abdominal adiposity or stomach fat .
The cause of high T, which is caused by excess fat, is complex, and is likely due to an increase in 17betaHSD.
What other causes are there?
Numerous other reasons may be at play for your hormonal levels to be elevated. Because testosterone regulation is complex, dysregulation can be caused by many factors. They include:
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Thyroid disorders
- Ovarian hyperthecosis
- Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia
1. Sirmans, Sm et al. Epidemiology, diagnosis, and management of polycystic ovary syndrome. Clinical Epidemiology. 2014; 6: 1–13
2. Pasquali, R. Obesity and androgens: facts and perspectives. Fertil Steril. 2006; 85(5): 1319-40
3. Quinkler, M et al. Androgen generation in adipose tissue in women with simple obesity–a site-specific role for 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 5. J Endocrinol. 2004; 183(2): 331-42