It’s possible for a woman’s testosterone levels to be too high or too low. And because testosterone is a key hormone in the body – in women and men alike – a testosterone imbalance can have quite an impact on your health and well-being.
So keep reading to learn more about unhealthy testosterone levels in women – including causes and symptoms. (And don’t forget: you can check your testosterone from the comfort of home with EverlyWell’s Testosterone Test.)
Testosterone in Women: What It Does
Though testosterone is often thought of as a “male hormone,” it’s actually an incredibly important hormone for women as well. In fact, women usually have higher testosterone levels than estradiol levels. (Estradiol is the body’s main form of estrogen, which is commonly viewed as a “female hormone.”)
Here are a few key roles testosterone can play in a woman’s health:
- Maintenance and growth of bones
- Increases muscle mass
- Decreases body fat (in post-menopausal women)
- Supports a healthy libido or sex drive
- May help decrease vaginal atrophy (which occurs most often in post-menopausal women)
- May help support cardiovascular health
So as you can see, normal testosterone levels in females can have many beneficial effects. But too much or too little of this hormone can have less-than-positive effects on the body.
Let’s start by discussing low testosterone symptoms.
Symptoms of Low Testosterone in Women
What are some low testosterone symptoms in women? If you have low T:
- Your hair may begin to thin
- Your skin may become drier
- Your sex drive may be dampened (one reason why some women with low testosterone choose to undergo testosterone therapy)
- You might lose muscle tone, too (which means that low testosterone levels aren’t exactly compatible with #summerbeachbodygoals)
- An increase in body fat, as well as mood changes (including greater anxiety), can also stem from lower-than-healthy testosterone levels
- Sexual dysfunction, bone loss, and overall loss of strength are some other possible low-T symptoms
Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder and Low Testosterone
Because testosterone plays a role in libido, women with lower-than-normal testosterone levels can experience hypoactive sexual desire disorder – or HSDD.
HSDD is considered the most widespread sexual health problem among women, and estimates suggest it occurs in 8% to 19% of women. It’s marked by fewer (if any) sexual fantasies and a lack of interest in sexual activity – along with a lot of personal distress, frustration, sadness, and decreased self-confidence and self-worth. Depression and fatigue often occur with HSDD.
Researchers have yet to pin down the exact causes of HSDD. The extent to which testosterone levels contribute to HSDD is also not well-understood. Low testosterone levels are, however, linked with less sexual desire, and testosterone therapy can boost sexual desire in both pre-menopausal and post-menopausal women. But there isn’t an exact T level that can be used to diagnose HSDD.
What causes low female testosterone levels?
What’s behind low testosterone levels in women? Here are a few possible causes:
- Long-term use of various methods of birth control – such as oral contraceptive pills and contraceptive patches
- Ovarian failure – where your ovaries stop functioning correctly – can lead to low testosterone levels. Possible causes of ovarian failure include chemotherapy, radiation treatment, and eating disorders, but the most common cause of ovarian failure is menopause – which happens to every woman as she ages.
- Using certain medications – such as anti-hypertensives and opiates
- Thyroid disease
- Tumors on various glands in the body – such as the pituitary gland – can also cause low T levels in women
Symptoms of High Testosterone in Women
Signs of high testosterone levels in women can include:
- Excess acne
- Abnormal hair growth throughout your body (such as on your chest)
- Male pattern baldness
- A deeper voice
- An enlarged clitoris and smaller breast size
- Menstrual irregularities are another sign of high testosterone
- And if you put on pounds super easily, you might want to get your testosterone levels checked: high testosterone contributes to weight gain
Too much testosterone in women is also linked with an increased risk of obesity and infertility. Post-menopausal women with high testosterone are also at an increased risk of insulin resistance, which can make diabetes more likely.
What causes high female testosterone levels?
- Ever come across the acronym “PCOS”? It stands for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and it’s a hormonal disorder that can fill your blood with too much testosterone.
- Steroid use and abuse – can hike up your testosterone levels.
- Adrenal disorders (like congenital adrenal hyperplasia) can also be at fault for high T levels. These disorders are genetic and often found at birth or during puberty.
How can women naturally decrease high testosterone levels?
Several herbs and other plant-based foods may be able to naturally decrease T levels in women:
- Licorice – The root of a legume plant native to the Middle East (and nearby regions like southern Europe), licorice may lower testosterone levels when taken daily.
- Green tea – Aside from being an all-around delicious tea, green tea may also be able to block testosterone from turning into a hormone called DHT – which is similar to testosterone but has much stronger effects on the body.
- Spearmint – Often consumed in tea form, spearmint may decrease levels of free testosterone in the bloodstream. (Read more: Know the difference between free T and total T)
If your hormone levels fall outside a healthy, normal range, then your health and well-being may be at risk. That’s certainly the case for testosterone – whether you are a woman or man. That’s why it’s a good idea to check your testosterone levels (EverlyWell’s Testosterone Test makes this easy to do) – giving you accurate information on a key part of your hormonal health, which you can discuss with your healthcare provider.
Learn More About Testosterone
Unhealthy Testosterone Levels In Men: Some Causes And Symptoms
Why Weight Loss Can Boost Your Testosterone Levels
Measure Your Free Testosterone Level with EverlyWell’s At-Home Test