When we think of testosterone, we usually think about men, but women also produce varying amounts of the hormone as well. Everyone is different, but you might start exhibiting some noticeable signs that your body is producing more testosterone than average. Your sex hormones can affect everything from how you feel to what you look like.
“Any time one experiences hormonal changes or fluctuations, there may be certain physical signs that manifest as a result,” says Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, M.D., M.S. over email. “In general, if the body produces excess testosterone, then one may potentially exhibit more masculine physical traits such as increased facial hair or even a deeper voice.”
Some testosterone is necessary, because along with estrogen, it plays a role in your sex drive in desire, says women’s health expert Sherry Ross, MD, OB/GYN over email. It also impacts muscle strength and function, lean body mass, energy, and bone strength, generally in a positive way.
There’s nothing inherently wrong or dangerous about producing more testosterone than average; hormone levels are meant to vary from person to person. But if you suddenly and unexpectedly start to experience any of the physical changes below, you may wish to see a doctor to evaluate for any possible hormonal imbalances.
Increased testosterone levels can lead to excessive hair growth in a typically-male pattern, also known as hirsutism. “It manifests as dark, coarse hair growth on the face, chin, chest, abdomen and back,” says Kimbre V. Zahn, MD over email. “These areas in women typically have little or no hair, but are stimulated by increased circulating androgens.”
Testosterone is an important hormone that helps mediate deepening of the voice. “Such vocal changes may arise in women if the body is producing abnormal amounts of the hormone,” says Okeke-Igbokwe.
“Clitoromegaly — or abnormal growth of the clitoris — may occur when high levels of androgens such as testosterone circulate throughout the body,” says Okeke-Igbokwe. “In some cases of clitoromegaly, the clitoris may even start to look like a small sized penis.”
Excessively breaking out? Your hormones may be to blame. “Testosterone increases the amount of oil, known as sebum, inside facial pores of the skin,” says Ross. “This ultimately causes the skin of the face to become oilier, blocking the glands and causing acne.”
Women with higher testosterone may also experience male pattern hair loss. “Typically, thinning involves the temples and vertex of the scalp, similar to what is seen in men as they begin to bald,” says Zahn.
An overabundance of testosterone in women can lead to increased muscle mass and even reduce breast size, according to Zahn. “These changes, especially if developed rapidly, are more unusual and warrant an immediate evaluation by your physician,” she says.
As to be expected, when your hormones are off, so is your period. Any extra amount of testosterone “will disrupt normal hormonal patterns of the menstrual cycle, resulting in anovulation and period irregularities,” says Zahn. “Most commonly women will have amenorrhea (loss of periods) or oligomenorrhea (infrequent cycles).”
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