Testosterone Women

Testosterone is often referred to as a “male” hormone because of its roles in conferring masculine traits. However, women also produce testosterone and, just as in men, it is important during development as well as adulthood.

Testosterone Production

In men, the adrenal glands produce a small amount of testosterone, and a much larger portion is made within the gonad (the testes). Adult women, by comparison, produce much less testosterone than men, and production is nearly evenly split between the adrenal glands and the ovaries.

In boys, testosterone levels spike significantly at the onset of puberty. Adolescent girls also increase testosterone production during puberty, but to a lesser degree. Women typically experience a decline in testosterone levels with advancing age, which is similar to what occurs in male testosterone levels.

The Role of Testosterone in Women

In women, testosterone is important for many of the same things that it is known for in men. The following qualities are all influenced by testosterone in both women and men:

  • Bone growth and protection
  • Cognitive function
  • Muscle development
  • Sexual interest.

Ovulation is influenced by fluctuations in a variety of hormones, including testosterone levels. Interestingly, women need testosterone in order to have normal ovulation and regular menstrual cycles.

Effects of Low Testosterone in Women

Low testosterone levels can negatively impact women’s health. Because testosterone levels diminish with age, particularly after menopause, the symptoms of testosterone deficiency are more common among older women. These symptoms may include poor bone strength, impaired ability to concentrate, decreased interest in sex and depression.

Efforts to treat women with low testosterone using synthetic testosterone replacement therapy have had mixed results. Many of the symptoms associated with low testosterone can have other causes, so it is possible that some women may not respond to testosterone treatment because multiple factors are contributing to their symptoms. Alternatively, it is possible that women respond differently to synthetic testosterone than men do, and the optimal method for delivery (be it a topical testosterone cream, skin patch, etc.) still needs to be determined.

High Testosterone and PCOS

Like all hormones, testosterone must be kept in careful balance in order to perform its job properly. Women with higher-than-normal testosterone levels can experience a range of health issues, but one of the most common is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

PCOS - Testosterone in Women

Women with PCOS often have high testosterone. The condition is named for one of its characteristic symptoms: the formation of small cysts on the ovaries. Other symptoms may include:

  • Abnormal menstrual cycles
  • Hairy arms and legs
  • Infertility
  • Obesity
  • Severe acne

Even in the absence of PCOS, all of the symptoms listed above are associated with high testosterone in women. Many treatment options for PCOS include manipulation of hormone levels, including testosterone.

Resources

Kemp, S. (2009). Hypogonadism: Treatment and medication. Retrieved January 21, 2010 from the eMedicine Web site: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/922038-treatment.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2009). Polycystic ovary syndrome. Retrieved January 21, 2010 from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/polycystic-ovary-syndrome/DS00423.

Pruthi, S. (n.d.). Menopause: Expert answers: Testosterone therapy in women: Does it boost sex drive? . Retrieved January 21, 2010 from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/testosterone-therapy/AN01390.

Shmerling, R. (n.d.). Testosterone: What is does and doesn’t do . Retrieved January 21, 2010 from the MSN Health Web site: http://health.msn.com/health-topics/sexual-health/mens-sexual-health/articlepage.aspx?cp-documentid=100200703