What causes high testosterone in women?

Written by lisa quinlan
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What causes high testosterone in women?
High testosterone may be behind a woman's hair loss. (girl brushing long hair image by NatUlrich from Fotolia.com)

High testosterone in women can be caused by a variety of diseases and conditions. High testosterone is an aspect of androgen disorders. Testosterone is the hormone that makes men masculine, so it brings many undesired results to both a woman's appearance and health if her body produces too much.

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Symptoms of High Testosterone in Women

High testosterone symptoms include hair loss, hirsutism (unwanted male-pattern hair growth), unexplained rapid weight gain, virilisation, acne, aggressiveness, irritability and missed menstrual cycles. Decreased breast size and a deepening of the voice will occur along with a coarsening of the skin.

Causes: Hormonal Imbalances

The main causes of high testosterone in females are hormonal imbalances that can happen at any age, and often sneak up gradually, with the 30s being the predominant time for things to get worse.

Common Testosterone Increasing Diseases

Adrenal gland disorders and ovarian problems, often caused by other hormonal imbalances, create an over-abundance of testosterone. The most common testosterone-increasing disease is polycystic ovarian syndrome. Diabetes can also lead to these endocrine upsets.

Rarer Disorders That Cause High Testosterone

Other disorders that cause high testosterone in women include acromegaly, adrenal neoplasm disorders, Conn's syndrome, Cushing's syndrome, dwarfism, gigantism or multiple endocrine neoplasm 1 and 2. An androgen-producing adrenal or ovarian tumour can lead to high levels of testosterone, as can congenital adrenal hyperplasia and thyroid disorders in general.

Medications That Cause High Testosterone

Steroid abuse can increase testosterone to unhealthy levels in women, but other medications have been linked to the disorder as well. One notable example is phenytoin--also known as Dilantin--a drug used to treat epilepsy.

Blood Test for Testosterone

Anyone experiencing some of these symptoms--excessive weight gain, male-pattern hair growth, aggressive behaviour, smaller breasts, coarser hair and skin--should contact a health care provider for a blood test to determine whether high testosterone is an issue.

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