Common Causes Of High Testosterone In Women

attractive businesswoman whisperingMuch like low testosterone levels, high testosterone levels can have a debilitating effect on women. Fatigue, low sex drive, acne, weight gain – you name it. Over the last year, I have faced all the above and some – resurfacing depression and severe, unpredictable menstrual cycles. So, I trekked it to the doctor’s office where I had my testosterone levels checked. To my surprise, the levels were elevated.

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While I knew that both men and women carry testosterone (normally a tenth of the amount of a man), I have to admit, what I overlooked was the fact that at any moment, levels can spike or crash, for a variety of reasons.

So, what is testosterone and what does it do?

Regarded as the most important male hormone by the National Institutes of Health, testosterone is a steroid sex hormone that plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy libido in both men and women. In men, testosterone is produced mainly in the testes, with a small amount made in the adrenal glands. Meanwhile, the ovaries and adrenal glands are responsible for producing the hormone in women.

According to the Mayo Clinic, disturbances to testosterone levels can give rise to depression in both men and women. While low testosterone levels can cause depression in women, high testosterone levels can also be a trigger. In other words, you’re damned if they’re high or damned if they’re low.

So, what are other common causes of high testosterone in women?

After a little digging (as I wait on my next round of blood work to return), this is what I found:

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Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

One of the more common causes of high testosterone in women. PCOS affects 5-10% of American women. It can also cause testosterone levels to skyrocket, resulting in symptoms like excess acne, excessive hair growth (especially on the face), and infertility.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, symptoms include: infrequent, irregular or absent menstrual periods, hirsutism (increased hair growth on the face, chest, abdomen, back, toes or thumbs), acne or oily skin, weight gain, anxiety or depression, and sleep apnea, among others.