Women are often frustrated with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), and hate their hirsutism (unwanted hair) and bothersome acne wishing they didn’t have any testosterone at all! Although it’s called the masculinizing hormone of your body, it has a larger role to play. Dr. Renuka demystifies testosterone for women out there.

Women, don’t hate your testosterone!

Dr. Renuka Dangare is a practicing physician with work experience in India and United States. She has largely worked in obstetrics and gynaecology. Outside of work, Renuka loves baking and is a mom to a baby and two cats.

This article has been written by Debayani Bose with clinical inputs from Dr. Renuka Dangare.

 

What is testosterone (T- hormone)?

Testosterone is one of the numerous hormones found in a woman’s body. It’s essentially a masculinizing  hormone important for sexual function. However, women also have testosterone but in much smaller amounts. 

Table 1: Different types of male and female sex hormones

Male sex hormones

Female sex hormones

Androstenedione

Estradiol

`Dehydroepiandrosterone

Estrone

Estradiol and other Estrogen

Progesterone

Testosterone

Testosterone and other androgens

Benefits of testosterone in women

Testosterone has many physiological effects in the female body. 

Key roles testosterone can play in a woman’s health

  • Maintenance and growth of bones
  • Increases muscle mass
  • Decreases body fat 
  • Supports a healthy libido or sex drive
  • May help decrease vaginal atrophy 
  • May help support cardiovascular health

Causes of Low Testosterone 

The production of testosterone increases significantly during puberty, and dips after age 30 or so. Testosterone levels decline steadily throughout the lifetime of an adult woman. As a result, post-menopausal women have lower testosterone levels. Women who have their ovaries removed or have lost their ovarian function because of a cause such as chemotherapy use about half of their testosterone pool. Women having problems with the pituitary of the adrenal gland can also have a low testosterone level. This can manifest as low sexual desire and poor arousal.

Signs and Symptoms of low testosterone in women

Even though testosterone is widely considered as a male sex hormone it is necessary for the optimal health of women, particularly when they reach peri-menopause and menopause. Testosterone has an effect on the sex drive and mental health of women.

The table below describes some of the symptoms of low testosterone in women. 

Sexual

Systemic

Mood

Immune system

Disinterest in sex

Fatigue

Loss of zest for life

Dry eyes

Negative body image

Insomnia

Anxiety/Depression

Pain

Avoiding intimacy

Migrane

Inability to organise

Arthritis

Inability to orgasm

Belly fat/weight gain

Loss of motivation

Osteoporosis

Low self-esteem

Decreased stamina

Loss of joy for living

Loss of balance

Loss of self-identity

Loss of memory

Loss of sense of well-being

Loss of strength

Signs and Symptoms of high testosterone in women

High testosterone or high androgens are most commonly encountered in PCOS. They can also occur in women just 2 years into starting their period or can be idiopathic meaning without a known cause.

Too much testosterone can affect a woman’s physical appearance and lead to

  • Excess body hair, specifically facial hair
  • Balding
  • Acne
  • Enlarged clitoris
  • Decreased breast size
  • Deepening of the voice
  • Increased muscle mass
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Low libido
  • Changes in mood

.

What can we do to keep testosterone levels in check in women?

If there is a fluctuation in testosterone levels the first step should be to visit a doctor to address your concerns. It is important that not just your hormone levels but your symptoms are also taken care of. Your acne and excess facial growth can be addressed by a gynaecologist or a skin care specialist and any symptoms relating to low testosterone such as mental health changes or low sex drive can by addressed by a psychiatrist. It’s also important to visit a doctor to rule out any other mental health issue you may have.

What can really help even before you visit a doctor is a change in lifestyle. Anything that affects your overall health affects your testosterone levels. This can include a change in diet, drinking less and quitting smoking. This can help maintain healthy testosterone levels in the body. Always talk to your physician before starting any testosterone or related medications.

It’s important to remember adequate amounts of T are essential for physical, mental and emotional health in both the sexes. 

To know more on the sexual and reproductive health of women, visit https://www.proactiveforher.com/

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as a substitute for medical advice or treatment.

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