What’s the first thing you think of when I say the word “testosterone”? Do you envision rippling muscles and bearded faces? That’s pretty normal. After all, testosterone is one of the most well-known male sex hormones. But testosterone isn’t solely a male hormone. Women have it, too. And while women are often concerned about keeping our estrogen and progesterone levels balanced, many of us give little thought to whether or not our testosterone levels are balanced.
It's estimated that between 5% and 10% of women have high testosterone. Of those women, about 10% are likely to also have polycystic ovary syndrome (otherwise known as PCOS). Imbalanced testosterone can lead to a variety of unwanted side effects, including decreased sex drive, frontal balding, infertility and more.
What Causes Excess Testosterone in Women?
There are several things that can cause testosterone levels to rise too high in women, including:
Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia: This is a disorder that typically causes an overproduction of androgen hormones in the body. It leads to more masculine characteristics in women.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Women with this condition also have imbalanced androgen hormones. This can lead to a variety of issues, including menstrual cycle abnormalities and infertility.
Hirsutism: Marked by persistent growth of unwanted body hair, this disease causes the body to produce too much testosterone. It’s primarily a genetic condition.
There are other conditions that can lead to testosterone imbalances in females, but the three listed above are the most common.
What Are Symptoms of Too Much Testosterone in Females?
Too much testosterone in females can lead to a variety of issues, including changes in physical appearance, mood swings and obesity. Here are some symptoms to watch out for if you suspect you may have too much testosterone in your body:
Irregular menstrual cycles
Excess body hair (especially on the face)
Receding hairline or balding
If you notice one or more of these issues, there’s a possibility your testosterone levels could be imbalanced. It’s important to take action to try to restore balance so you can get rid of these unwanted symptoms.
Treatment Options for Excess Testosterone
So, now that you know why you’re so hairy, grumpy or bald, what can you do about it? The first thing you should do is see your doctor and have your hormone levels tested so you can rule out any other issues. Once you’re certain that too much testosterone is behind your symptoms, you can seek treatment.
Your doctor may recommend one of the following medications for your hormone imbalance, depending on your age, case severity, and the underlying cause of your condition:
It’s important to understand that these medications come with some risk of side effects. Make sure you fully understand the side effects before agreeing to take any medication.
Beyond meds, there are things you can do to impact your hormone levels naturally. Lifestyle changes such as losing excess weight, exercising regularly and eating a healthy, well-balanced diet can all help balance hormones. There are also some supplements that may help, such as spearmint tea, white peony, reishi mushroom and licorice tea. Even vitamin D has been shown to help balance androgen levels in women with PCOS and other hormone disorders. It may also help boost mood in the winter months when you don’t get as much exposure to natural sunlight.
While most supplements are fairly safe, there are some that may carry a risk of side effects. Before taking any supplement, check with your doctor to make sure it won’t interact negatively with any medications you’re taking or any other health conditions you have.