Testosterone is usually thought of as a “male hormone,” but it’s also very important for women to maintain adequate levels of testosterone. In women, testosterone is produced in small quantities in the ovaries and adrenal glands, with additional production in peripheral tissues throughout the body. Testosterone is also synthesized from other sex hormones as needed, especially from a hormone called androstenedione, which is converted into testosterone.
Testosterone has a number of functions in women. It helps maintain sex drive and libido, contributes to strong bones, helps manage discomfort and pain sensitivity, and preserves cognitive health and a sense of well-being.
Normal blood testosterone levels in females can range from 30 to 95 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL). As with men, testosterone production in women tapers off with age. By the time a woman is 40 years old, her testosterone levels will be about half of what they were when she was 20 years old.
Testosterone levels higher than 95 ng/dL can lead to symptoms such as baldness, acne, and facial hair. Levels lower than 30 ng/dL may cause symptoms of testosterone deficiency, especially a loss of libido or total lack of interest in sex. Unfortunately, many women experiencing low testosterone are not tested for a deficiency, leading to cases of undiagnosed testosterone deficiency and unnecessary suffering.
The most common cause of testosterone deficiency in women is age, but there are a number of additional possible causes, including:
- Surgical removal of the ovaries or uterus.
- Hormonal fluctuations.
- Diseases such as polycystic ovarian syndrome or diabetes.
- Lifestyle factors such as obesity, smoking, or chronic stress.
Effect of Low Testosterone in Women
The symptoms of low testosterone in women may not be immediately obvious even to doctors. In many cases, women with clinical testosterone deficiency are referred for psychotherapy or counseling instead of comprehensive hormone assessment—or they are mistakenly diagnosed with anemia, thyroid disorders, or some other unrelated condition with similar symptoms.
The signs of low testosterone in women depend on the age of the woman the severity of the deficiency. Typical age-related symptoms include:
- Deficiency in puberty: lack of development of secondary sexual characteristics, short stature, underdeveloped breasts and hips, lack of pubic hair, delayed or absent menstruation.
- Deficiency in adulthood: decreased sexual desire, lethargy, sudden drop in energy levels, increased abdominal fat, hair loss, irregular menstruation, increased risk of osteoporosis, mood and emotional changes include depression and a low emotional state.
Improved awareness of the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of testosterone deficiency in women is needed to avoid misdiagnosis and unnecessary treatments.
If you suspect your testosterone levels are low, you should visit a qualified doctor for evaluation. Accurately measuring testosterone levels in women can be difficult because of the natural fluctuation of hormone levels throughout the month. Typically, the blood should be taken in the morning when testosterone levels are at their peak. The test should take place about 8 to 20 days after the beginning of the menstrual period to get accurate results.