What causes high testosterone in women

Along with the female sex hormone estrogen, testosterone plays a role in the growth and maintenance of female reproductive tissue and bone mass. These hormones also influence behavior.

In this article, learn about conditions that cause high testosterone in women, as well as symptoms and treatments.

Normal Testosterone Levels

Normal testosterone levels in men are about 280 to 1,100 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL).

Women secrete a much smaller amount, with normal levels considered to be between 15 and 70 ng/dL.

The levels of hormones produced in the body vary from day to day and throughout the day. Testosterone levels are highest in the morning.

Symptoms of High Testosterone in Women

What causes high testosterone in women

Testosterone imbalances in women can affect their physical appearance and overall health.

Symptoms of high testosterone in women include:

  • acne
  • deep voice
  • excess hair on the face and body
  • increased muscle mass
  • irregular periods
  • larger-than-normal clitoris
  • loss of libido
  • mood changes
  • reduction in breast size
  • thinning hair

Severely high levels of testosterone in women can cause obesity and infertility.

Causes of High Testosterone

High testosterone in women is usually caused by an underlying medical condition, such as:

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH)

CAH is a term given to a group of inherited disorders that affect the adrenal glands. These glands secrete the hormones cortisol and aldosterone, which play a role in regulating metabolism and blood pressure.

The adrenal glands also produce the male sex hormones DHEA and testosterone.

People with CAH lack one of the enzymes needed to regulate the production of these hormones, so they secrete too little cortisol and too much testosterone.

CAH can be mild (non-classic CAH) or severe (classic CAH).

Symptoms in women include:

  • deep voice
  • early appearance of pubic hair
  • enlarged clitoris
  • excess body hair
  • facial hair
  • irregular or absent menstrual periods
  • severe acne
  • short height as an adult but rapid childhood growth

While there is no cure for CAH, most people with the condition can receive treatment that will reduce symptoms and improve their quality of life.


Hirsutism is characterized by unwanted hair growth in women. It is a hormonal condition that is related to genetics.

Symptoms include the growth of male-pattern hair that is dark and coarse. It usually affects:

  • back
  • chest
  • face

In cases of excessively high testosterone, other symptoms will also be present, including:

  • acne
  • balding
  • deepening voice
  • enlarged clitoris
  • increased muscle mass
  • reduced breast size

Home remedies and medical treatments help many women control the symptoms of hirsutism.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a common hormonal disorder that affects women of reproductive age. Some reliable sources suggest that PCOS affects 8 to 20 percent of women worldwide.

Women are usually not diagnosed until they are in their 20s and 30s, but children as young as 11 can be affected.

Symptoms of PCOS include:

  • enlarged ovaries that develop follicles and do not release eggs regularly
  • excess body hair
  • irregular, infrequent, or long menstrual periods

PCOS may lead to several complications, including:

  • depression
  • heart disease
  • infertility
  • miscarriage
  • obesity
  • sleep apnea
  • type 2 diabetes

Doctors do not know what causes PCOS, although genetics and excess insulin may play a role.


High levels of testosterone in women can cause a variety of symptoms, from excess facial hair to infertility, and are usually caused by an underlying medical condition. Treating the underlying disorder will often reduce symptoms and improve a person’s quality of life.

Women who are or think they are experiencing symptoms of high testosterone should consult their doctor to determine the cause and access appropriate treatment.

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