The Importance of Testosterone in Women’s Health
When it comes to hormones, we don’t usually hear on how testosterone in women works, usually because we often associate it as a male hormone.
It’s true that estrogen is predominant in women as a sex hormone, while men’s in the other hand has testosterone in it’s major proportions.
But both males and females have estrogen and testosterone, although its concentrations are much different.
Basically what is high in one, is low in the other, and vice versa.
Testosterone belongs to the class of hormones known as ‘’androgens’’ or ‘’ anabolic steroids’’, most present in human nature specifically as a male sex hormone responsible for growth, reproduction, and maintenance of a healthy body.
Despite its concentration levels are much lower, testosterone in women plays a big role in their health.
Let’s go through some kick facts:
Production of Testosterone
Women produce 1/10th to 1/20th of the total amount of testosterone produced in males.
It’s produced in females in skin cells, adrenal glands, fat cells, and ovaries.
Levels of testosterone changes throughout life and during menstrual cycles.
However, deranged levels of testosterone in women has an impact on their health and well-being.
Functions of Testosterone in Women
Testosterone perform the following functions in female bodies:
- Growth and maintenance of female reproductive tissue.
- Growth and maintenance of bone health.
- Is important for healthy sex drive or libido.
- Responsible for the increase in muscle mass.
- In post-menopausal women, it is required to reduce body fat and vaginal atrophy.
- Is also responsible for cardiovascular health.
- It promotes cognitive health.
Testosterone Range Levels
Normal Range Level of Testosterone in Women
A blood test can detect levels of testosterone in the human body.
The normal range of testosterone for optimum functioning in females is 15 to 70 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL).
Below 15 ng/dL is referred to as low testosterone levels, and above 70 ng/dL is referred to as high testosterone levels in females.
We will now discuss what happens when testosterone levels are abnormally high or low and what can you do to normalize them.
Low Range Level of Testosterone in Women
As per Endocrine society, testosterone levels decrease somewhat in females between 20 to 40 years of age.
But this decrease is not significant to cause symptomatic changes.
However, if levels are significantly reduced, affected females can experience the following symptoms:
- Changes in reproductive tissues (such as breast tissue).
- Weight gain.
- Fatigue or sluggishness.
- Low sex drive or libido.
- Abnormal sleep patterns.
- Irregular menstrual cycles.
- Bone and muscle loss.
- Vaginal dryness.
- Fertility issues.
- Mood changes.
- Thinning of hairs.
Although testosterone decreases naturally as the females’ ages. Some other commonly seen causes other than aging are:
- Prolonged use of contraceptives, including contraceptive patches and oral birth control pills.
- Certains medications like antihypertensives, oral estrogen or opiates, etc.
- Tumors on testosterone-producing glands such as the pituitary gland and adrenal gland.
- Ovarian failure due to menopause, chemo, or radiotherapy.
High Range Level of Testosterone in Women
The other symptoms with high testosterone levels are:
- Excessive hair growth, especially on the face.
- Increased muscle mass.
- Irregular menstrual cycles.
- Fertility problems.
- Blood sugar derangements.
- Male pattern baldness.
- Enlarged clitoris or decreased breast tissue.
- Mood changes.
- Decreased libido.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is the commonest cause of higher levels of testosterone in females. It is estimated that 10 percent of females in childbearing age have PCOS.
- The overuse of steroid medication can also increase testosterone levels.
- Genetic adrenal disorders like congenital adrenal hyperplasia also cause increased production of testosterone in females.
Normalizing testosterone levels are vital for women’s health, as deranged levels have many systemic and metabolic effects.
First of all, the underlying cause must be identified for the deranged levels.
If any woman is suffering from low levels of testosterone, then the management options include an oral or non-oral replacement followed by lifestyle changes depending upon the levels in the body.
Stress reduction, adequate sleep, and a healthy diet are among the lifestyle changes you can apply.
Non-oral preparations includes gels, creams, and transdermal patches.
Oral replacements include DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) supplements, and are also used in severe deficiency and noticeable symptoms.
During testosterone replacement, she must check the levels regularly after every four to six months to rule out androgen excess.
Once the therapy is started, it takes a few days to weeks to notice the improvement in symptoms.
Mostly the women reported increased sex drive, performance and enhanced mood in initial days.
Women that has low or high testosterone levels, should consult a doctor who prescribes the best possible replacement option, according to her age, weight, testosterone, sexual, and medical history.
One treatment option may not necessarily be effective in other women.
After six months of treatment, if there is no response or improvement in androgen levels, a doctor can suggest an alternative method.
Additionally, if testosterone excess levels are observed, the goal is to lower it down to normal levels.
Lifestyle changes and medications can help to normalize testosterone levels.
Keeping a healthy weight is also important, as high weight is a common cause for raised testosterone levels.
Medications to lower testosterone and manage symptoms include Eflornithine, spironolactone, metformin, progestin, glucocorticoid, and OCPs (oral contraceptive). OCPs are contraindicated if a woman is trying to conceive.
Deranged levels of testosterone in women can have many undesirable impacts.
Most of the time, they cannot figure out the cause because, with minimum derangement, their symptoms are nonspecific like mood changes, tiredness, decreased libido, etc.
So, it is important that any female experiencing the symptoms mentioned above must get their testosterone levels checked.
And if it comes out to be low or high, then consult a physician to use a careful approach of replacing testosterone.
A physician will recommend the management option according to health status, medical history, and family history.
They will also monitor the levels regularly to prevent the side effects of the treatment or replacement.
So make sure to discuss all of your symptoms and possible risks with the physician of prescribed replacement therapy.
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