By Staff of Leigh Ann Scott, MD, A Forum Health Provider
Low testosterone in women is much more common than most people realize. Generally, when people think of testosterone they associate it with men. But for women, waning levels can be equally distressing. Testosterone is one of the three sex hormones along with Estrogen and Progesterone. Both men and women’s bodies contain all three but the ratios are drastically different. Women produce testosterone in their ovaries, adrenal glands, and fat cells. In both men and women, testosterone gradually starts to decrease beginning in twenties. When a person reaches age 50, testosterone levels are about half what they were at age 25.
There are also other factors that can contribute to low testosterone in women such as having a hysterectomy, especially if the ovaries are removed. (Other hormones will be affected by this too). Adrenal gland fatigue and pituitary dysfunction can also contribute to low T.
Symptoms of low testosterone in women can include:
- Hair loss
- Thinning and dry skin
- Trouble sleeping
- Overall strength decrease
- Muscle tone is reduced
- Weight gain, especially around the middle
- Problems with fertility
- Menstrual cycle irregularity
- Loss of bone density
- Fatigue for no obvious reason
- Less interest in intimacy
- Mood changes, including feeling depressed or anxious
- Inability to concentrate
- Loss of “pep” or overall motivation
Other conditions may mimic the symptoms of low testosterone levels in women such as Hypothyroidism, iron deficiency, and depression. Also, other hormones such as Estrogen and Progesterone may also be out of balance which can contribute to worsening symptoms. It’s always important to see a doctor so that all potential underlying issues can be identified accurately and treated properly.
Is it possible to have too much testosterone?
While having high levels of testosterone is less common than having low levels, yes, it is also possible for women to have too much. High testosterone in women can also be a symptom of other underlying conditions so it’s just as important to see your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:
- Periods cease before entering menopause
- Unusual amounts of body hair
- Hair that grows on the chin or upper lip
- Tone of voice deepens
- Acne/oily skin
- Male pattern baldness, especially around hair line
- Increased muscle mass or bulking up.
Research & Studies on Low Testosterone in Women
In the early days of hormone research, studies done on women with low testosterone levels were not always consistent or accurate. For example, in one study, women who were testosterone deficient and started on supplementation were found to have increased abdominal weight gain. However, researchers failed to take into account that the women had other hormonal imbalances as well. Those studies are now deemed to be flawed and are not credible.
Current research shows that testosterone supplementation can drastically affect how women feel overall. Most notice increased libido. They also see better results when exercising because muscle mass will increase and body fat will decrease when testosterone is in balance. Studies also report that women see an overall change in mood and are more motivated and energized.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 2000 revealed that women receiving testosterone therapy were able to lose two times more body fat and gain more muscle mass compared to women who were given a placebo.
Other research studies have reviewed how low testosterone levels can affect long-term health. Results have shown that deficiencies may be a “key predictive factor” for cardiovascular disease in women who have had hysterectomies or are postmenopausal.
Women only need a small amount of testosterone supplementation compared to men. Most report feeling like their old selves again after just a few weeks with increased mood and motivation. Other hormonal shifts occur in the perimenopause and menopausal stages of life such as decreased progesterone and estrogen. All hormone levels should be tested for optimal health and well-being.
Our providers are experts in balancing hormones. Our lab testing is much more comprehensive than what most doctors typically run. This allows us to see the big picture and determine exactly what is causing your symptoms. We also address any issues that may affect your long-term health. Our mission is for you to feel your absolute best!