Testosterone is an endogenous androgen, or male sex hormone, produced naturally by both men and women in varying degrees. It is responsible for healthy growth, strong bones and muscle development, but too much, whether overproduced in the body or taken as a subcutaneous or topical supplement, can cause unwanted side effects and disrupt the body’s natural processes.
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Early onset puberty in boys and girls, defined as “precocious puberty”, in most cases is due to early overproduction of sex hormones like testosterone. The flood of hormones into the blood stream inspires rapid musculoskeletal development and the appearance of adult features such as facial hair and genital development in boys and breasts and early menstruation in girls. Precocious puberty is treated either with surgical intervention if the underlying cause of a overactive hypothalamus is related to a tumor or head trauma or pharmacologically with drugs designed to block the production of sex hormones like testosterone.
Sometimes, too much testosterone in the body is a characteristic of a hormonal disorder, as it is in women with polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS. Women with the disorder develop clusters of cystic structures in the ovaries. Too much testosterone doesn’t cause PCOS, but the syndrome results in additional free testosterone in the blood, which manifests in symptoms like unwanted hair growth, irregular ovulation and unpredictable or absent menstrual periods.
Unwanted hair growth
Though hormone therapies for baldness have not been proven effective as of 2010, there is a direct correlation between the amount of testosterone in the blood and body hair, according to Lab Tests Online, a public, peer-reviewed resource on clinical lab testing. Higher hormone levels affect the body’s hair growth in different ways in different areas, thus a man with pattern baldness may have robust hair growth on the abdomen and back. This is thought to be a consequence of the release of 5-alpha reductase, an enzyme that converts free testosterone to the more potent dihydrotestosterone. Drugs that block 5-alpha reductase, like Propecia, reverse the continued development of baldness in some men.
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