Testosterone is a male hormone (androgen) which is found in low levels in the female body. It is a steroid produced in ovaries, adrenal gland and from conversion of other steroid hormones (such as androstenedione and dehydroepiandrosterone – DHEA). Women produce testosterone primarily in their ovaries and their adrenal glands – on average, women produce about one-tenth the amount of their male counterparts.
Testosterone’s role in the body is to build muscle and promote muscle tone, increase libido, strengthen bone and sometimes improve mood and metabolism. It’s levels typically decline as we age due to declining ovarian and adrenal functions.
The ovaries produce both testosterone and estrogen. Relatively small quantities of testosterone are released by ovaries and adrenal glands. In addition to being produced by the ovaries, estrogen is also produced by fat tissue in the body. These sex hormones are involved in the growth, maintenance, and repair of reproductive tissues. But that’s not all. They influence other body tissues and bone mass as well. Like all hormones, testosterone must be kept in careful balance in order to perform its job properly.
Testosterone has been called the “hormone of desire” for good reason. Without enough, desire for sex all but disappears. But it also plays other important roles for women–especially in helping to maintain healthy body composition. Adequate levels of testosterone also help women look, feel, and perform better from day to day.
Testosterone Role in Women
In women, testosterone is important for many of the same things that it is known for in men.
Despite the gender differences, this hormone is required in both men and women for the same reasons. The following qualities are all influenced by testosterone in both women and men:
- to generate more energy and less body fat,
- to increase lean body mass, especially muscle and bone (bone growth and protection, muscle development);
- to maintain a healthy libido (sexual interest);
- to improve mood and metabolism.
Decreased Level of 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.
At menopause, women experience a decline in testosterone. That decline may be correlated to a reduced libido. Some findings indicate that testosterone replacement therapy may benefit sexual function in certain women post menopause. Testosterone replacement is unadvised in women with breast or uterine cancer. It also may increase the chances of cardiovascular disease or liver disease. So experts are cautious about recommendations.
Increased Level of Testosterone in Women
Increased level of testosterone in women body called hyperandrogenemia. If female body produces too much, it could develop irregular menstrual cycles/irregular periods and/or amenorrhea (absent menstrual periods). Hyperandrogenemia can be also responsible for more body hair (hirsutism) than the average woman. Some women with high levels of testosterone develop frontal balding. Other possible effects of high levels of testosterone include acne, an enlarged clitoris, increased muscle mass, and deepening of voice.
High levels of testosterone can also lead to infertility. High levels are commonly seen in polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is an endocrine condition that is sometimes seen in women of childbearing age who have difficulty getting pregnant. Women with PCOS have symptoms similar to symptoms produced by high levels of testosterone. They include:
- an apple-shaped body
- excessive or thinning hair growth (hirsutism)
- menstrual irregularity