women with high testosterone

Unhealthy Testosterone Levels In Women: Causes and Symptoms

Medically reviewed on October 20, 2023 by Rosanna Sutherby, PharmD. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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It’s possible for a woman’s testosterone production to be too high or too low. And because testosterone is a key hormone in the body—in women and men alike—abnormal testosterone levels can have quite an impact on the health and well-being of a pre-or post-menopausal woman.

High or low testosterone symptoms women experience can be difficult to spot, but understanding signs that indicate an imbalance is an important step in regaining hormonal health. So, keep reading to learn more about unhealthy levels of testosterone in women—including causes and symptoms, as well as how to check testosterone levels.

You’ll also learn about foods and supplements that can help support healthy testosterone levels in females to help get your body’s hormone levels back on track. (And don’t forget: you can check your testosterone from the comfort of home with the Everlywell hormone test.)

Understanding Testosterone in Women and AFAB People

Do women have testosterone? The answer is “yes.”

Though testosterone is often thought of as a “male hormone,” it’s actually vital to women as well. Where the testes produce testosterone in men and people assigned male at birth (AMAB), women and people assigned female at birth (AFAB) produce the hormone in their ovaries (and, like men, their adrenal glands). [1]

Healthy levels of testosterone are crucial for maintaining overall health and well-being, regardless of your sex or gender. [1] (Related: Low testosterone in men)

While women produce less testosterone than men do, it remains a key hormone for [2]:

  • Supporting hormonal balance
  • Supporting a normal, healthy reproductive cycle
  • Maintaining bone density and growth
  • Maintaining and regulating muscle mass
  • Maintaining organ health
  • Regulating body fat distribution
  • Supporting a healthy libido or sex drive

Because testosterone is key for supporting several basic bodily functions, symptoms can arise if testosterone levels get too low or too high. Let’s start by discussing low testosterone symptoms.

Low Testosterone Women: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Signs of low testosterone in women may impact both physical health and mental well-being. Low testosterone symptoms in women may be indicated by [3]:

  • A low libido – As testosterone helps fuel a healthy sex drive, a decline in sexual interest or inability to achieve orgasm may be a symptom of lower testosterone levels in both sexes.
  • Loss of muscle tone or weight gain – Testosterone helps control muscular anatomy. Similarly, as testosterone helps distribute fat in the body, abrupt weight gain or difficulty shedding weight may be a symptom of low T or disrupted testosterone levels.
  • Changes in mood – Emotional dysregulation caused by low testosterone may show up as elevated stress or anxiety, irritability, depression, or moodiness.
  • Reproductive irregularities – Low testosterone can cause a cascade of symptoms affecting the hormones and reproductive health. You might notice vaginal dryness, sudden onset of acne, or irregular or absent menstrual cycles. If you are trying to get pregnant, you may also struggle with fertility and have difficulty conceiving or maintaining pregnancy caused by low T.

Other symptoms of low testosterone in women may include persistently low energy, a thinning of the hair, or noticing your skin seems drier than usual.3 Lowered testosterone that persists for a long period of time may also contribute to bone density loss and reduced muscle strength. [3]

What Causes Low Testosterone in Females?

Several factors can depress testosterone production in women, including [3]:

  • Hormonal contraceptives – Specifically, the use of certain birth control methods like combined oral contraceptives ("the pill") can lower testosterone.
  • Changes to reproductive anatomy – Surgical removal of one or both ovaries (oophorectomy) naturally leads to less testosterone since ovaries are one of the primary organs responsible for making it.
  • Certain medications – High-dose corticosteroids have been linked to lower testosterone levels. These are often used to treat inflammatory health conditions by suppressing immune function, and side effects overlap significantly with testosterone deficiency. [4]
  • Premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) – POI occurs when the ovaries stop functioning normally before 40 years of age. The condition may occur if you’ve undergone chemotherapy or radiation treatment, though the most common cause of ovarian failure is menopause. Thus, a menopausal woman may develop abnormal testosterone levels. [5]
  • Certain chronic health conditions – Low testosterone levels may also result from underlying medical conditions, like HIV. [6]

Because testosterone plays a role in libido, women with lower-than-normal levels of testosterone may also experience hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD).

HSDD affects 10% of women in the U.S.7 It’s marked by:

  • Decreased or absent sexual fantasies or sexual desire
  • Lack of interest in sexual activity
  • Fatigue
  • Emotional or mental health problems like depression, frustration, sadness, and decreased self-confidence and self-worth

Researchers have yet to identify the exact causes of HSDD, though factors such as sexual trauma, aging, menopause, psychosocial beliefs, and comorbid medical conditions are thought to play a role. [7]

Testosterone hormone therapy can boost sexual desire in both a pre-menopausal and post-menopausal woman. [7] Even so, experts have yet to pinpoint an exact testosterone level (whether it's total testosterone or free testosterone) that can be used to diagnose HSDD.

How to Increase Testosterone in Women

Low testosterone in women symptoms can be distressing, and you may be inclined to seek natural, sustainable ways to boost them. Fortunately, low levels of testosterone may be responsive to both natural and clinical methods of treatment.

Some natural ways to encourage testosterone production in women include [8]:

  • Avoiding dieting and maintaining a nutritionally balanced diet
  • Engaging in regular exercise, combining cardiovascular and strength training activities

Research also links excessive amounts of the stress hormone, cortisol, to lower amounts of testosterone, so managing stress levels may assist with normalizing healthy testosterone production. [9]

If necessary, clinical interventions are also available for treating low testosterone levels in women. These include:

  • Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT), or testosterone therapy, is a type of hormone replacement therapy which can supplement low testosterone levels via gels, patches, or injections. [10]
  • DHEA supplementation, a precursor hormone that can convert to testosterone in the body, may be considered a testosterone treatment in some instances. [11]

High Testosterone in Women: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Just as women can possess lower-than-average testosterone, women can develop excessively high levels of testosterone under certain conditions.

Signs and symptoms of high testosterone levels in women include [12]:

  • Sudden, excessive acne
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Male pattern baldness (androgenic alopecia)
  • Abnormal hair growth throughout your body, such as on your chest (hirsutism)

High female testosterone levels are also linked with an increased risk of infertility. [12] Additionally, post-menopausal women with elevated testosterone may be more likely to experience insulin resistance, which can make developing diabetes more likely.

If you have high levels of testosterone, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider to learn about treatment options. In some cases, hormone therapy or medication can help restore your levels to a normal range.

What Causes High Testosterone in Females?

everal causal factors may be responsible for too much testosterone in women [13]:

  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder that can cause your body to produce too much testosterone.
  • Steroid abuse, as abusing steroids can hike testosterone levels and other androgens in the body.
  • Adrenal disorders like congenital adrenal hyperplasia, as problems with the adrenal glands can contribute to high testosterone levels. These disorders are genetic and typically originate at birth or during puberty.

How to Reduce Testosterone in Women

If you're looking for natural ways to lower testosterone, it can help to know several herbs and other plant-based foods linked to reducing testosterone levels in women:

  • Licorice – Some animal studies suggest licorice root may lower testosterone levels when consumed regularly. [14] Though licorice root for testosterone reduction is currently under-researched, a 2004 study demonstrated similar effects when taken by women. [15]
  • Spearmint – Often consumed in tea form, one trial study from 2010 demonstrated spearmint may decrease levels of free testosterone in the bloodstream. [16]

Also, keep in mind that if you're experiencing high testosterone, it's a good idea to talk with your healthcare provider to learn what their recommendation is.

Attain Healthy Testosterone Levels with Everlywell

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 one's testosterone level: from weight gain and increased body hair to menstrual cycle irregularities and lowered muscle mass, there are a number of symptoms that can occur from abnormal testosterone levels.

In short, testosterone is an essential sex hormone that plays important roles in health across all sexes. Whether you’re having symptoms or just wondering how to test testosterone levels conveniently, consider the Everlywell Women's Hormone Test.

This at-home test makes hormonal testing more affordable and convenient, giving you accurate information on a key part of your hormonal health, which you can then discuss with your healthcare provider.

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  3. Symptoms of low testosterone in women (and reasons why it might be low). Cleveland Clinic. August 30, 2023. URL. Accessed October 11, 2023.
  4. Prednisone and other corticosteroids: Balance the risks and Benefits. Mayo Clinic. December 9, 2022. URL. Accessed October 11, 2023.
  5. Professional CC medical. Primary ovarian insufficiency: Causes, symptoms & treatment. Cleveland Clinic. URL. Accessed October 11, 2023.
  6. Testosterone Insufficiency in Human Immunodeficiency Virus–Infected Women: A Cross-Sectional Study. Academic.oup.com. December 3, 2018. URL. Accessed October 11, 2023.
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  13. Physiology, testosterone - STATPEARLS - NCBI BOOKSHELF. URL. Accessed October 11, 2023.
  14. Aldhahrani A, Soliman MM, Althobaiti F, et al. The modulatory impacts of glycyrrhiza glabra extract against methotrexate-induced testicular dysfunction and oxidative stress. Toxicology research. URL. Accessed October 11, 2023.
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  16. P; G. Spearmint herbal tea has significant anti-androgen effects in polycystic ovarian syndrome. A randomized controlled trial. Phytotherapy research : PTR. URL. Accessed October 11, 2023.
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