The Causes and Symptoms of High Testosterone and Other Androgens
Have you ever experienced hair loss, acne, hirsutism and/or irregular periods and not sure why?
Well, it may due to having excess or elevated androgens, such as testosterone. High testosterone along with absent or irregular menstrual cycles and polycystic ovaries, is one of the three defining signs of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS.
Androgens are often referred to as the “male” hormone but are actually essential in both men and women. They are vital for normal reproductive function, emotional well-being, cognitive function, lean muscle function and more.
Problems start to arise when androgen levels become higher than normal, causing a ripple of effects including hair loss, acne and hirsutism (and for me personally, anxiety)
High androgen levels are diagnosed through the presence of physical symptoms and a blood test. These high androgen levels are what lead to my PCOS diagnosis, and has been crucial in managing my own symptoms such as hair loss and acne.
It is important to note that due to variations in the physical and chemical make up of each individual, not all women who have PCOS have elevated testosterone or high androgen levels.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE SYMPTOMS OF HIGH TESTOSTERONE LEVELS IN WOMEN?
There are many symptoms that you may have high testosterone levels in your body. Every one experiences these differently and you may have a lot of symptoms or not many at all.
Hirsutism is a common, yet devastating, symptom for many women with PCOS. It is characterised by excess facial or body hair, often on the chest, chin and upper lip.
2. Acne and/or oily skin
Acne can be a heartbreaking symptom of polycystic ovary syndrome. Not only does PCOS acne have an effect on the self esteem of many women but it can arise in awkward and often very painful places such as the angles of the neck and along the jawline.
Acne occurs when the pores of the skin become blocked with oil, dead skin, or bacteria. Increased testosterone levels in the body can lead to excess production of oily sebum on the skin. This doesn’t mean that you’re dirty or that you’re not cleaning your face enough, it may stem from poor diet, high stress levels, other hormonal imbalances or genetics.
or find out more about the hormone balancing herbs I took here
3. Alopecia and Hair loss
When there is too much testosterone in the body, it changes into a chemical called dihydrotestosterone (better known as DHT). This DHT causes the hair follicles to shrink and the hair becomes finer and finer until eventually, new hair growth stops altogether.
There are a few steps you can take to treat hirsutism naturally, including avoiding inflammatory foods, using natural herbs and supplements and reducing stress levels.
4. Acanthosis Nigricans
Acanthosis Nigricans is a skin condition characterised by darkening and thickening of the skin typically occurring in the folds of the skin in the armpits, groin and back of the neck.
5. High Blood Pressure
Many women with PCOS also present with high blood pressure levels. Studies have shown that women with PCOS are up to 40% more likely to have elevated blood pressure than women without polycystic ovary syndrome, independent of how old they are, their BMI levels and the presence of diabetes or insulin resistance.
6. Insulin Resistance
Insulin is a hormone that converts the food we eat into the energy the body needs to function. Some consider this a cause of PCOS and others consider it a symptom. Either way, we know there is a correlation between insulin resistance and elevated androgen levels as 60 - 95% of all PCOS women have insulin resistance. If insulin resistance isn’t treated it can lead to diabetes.
7. Fat Storage Around the Mid Abdomen
Excess levels of androgens influence where fat is stored in the body. In women with PCOS fat tends to be distributed viscerally, meaning that there is increased fat storage in the abdominal cavity. Increased weight is also associated with elevated insulin levels. To keep excess body weight at bay, it is important that you keep up a healthy diet and include exercise into your day to day activities.
8. Irregular or absent periods or frequently skipped cycles
Missing periods are a hallmark of polycystic ovary syndrome and one of the three criteria for diagnosis of PCOS. Testosterone is usually produced in small amounts the ovaries and excess production of this hormone can interfere with ovulation and cause you to miss periods.
9. Enlargement of the Clitoris
Most of us are aware that enlargement of the clitoris is associated with sexual arousal, however increased testosterone and elevated androgen levels can also lead to an enlarged clitoris.
10. Deep or Hoarse Voice
Excess testosterone in the body can cause your voice to become hoarse or deepen. Other vocal symptoms include increased throat clearing, feeling like their is a lump in your throat and difficulty being heard.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF HIGH TESTOSTERONE?
Stress can cause your adrenal glands to produce extra testosterone. Keeping stress levels down can help alleviate some of the abovementioned symptoms. Breathing, yoga and gentle exercise can all help you naturally lower your stress levels and as a result, your testosterone levels.
Coming Off the Contraceptive Pill
Women take the pill for many reasons, including contraception, period regulation and a whole host of other reasons, so it’s important to consider how your body was before you began taking the pill, as many of these things may return. The contraceptive pill works to suppress ovulation, which means certain hormones, such as testosterone are also suppressed. Coming off the pill will spike your testosterone levels and may take some time to balance out. So if you are thinking about coming off the pill start to prepare your body with lots of nourishing detoxifying foods, water, herbs and supplements.
Physical Inactivity or Overactivity
We all know we should get plenty of exercise for a healthy body and mind, but did you know overactivity can also cause your cortisol levels to rise and increase your circulating androgens, including testosterone. Stick to regular gentle movement or cortisol conscious workouts to keep your hormones happy.
Other Hormone Imbalances
Our hormones are all intertwined and often when one set of hormones are out of balance, other hormones can become unbalanced. It’s so important to understand which of your hormones are out of whack to balance out your hormones holistically.
Hypersensitivity to Normal Amount of Androgen
Even if your hormone levels come back as “normal” you might still have a hypersensitivity to the amount of hormones present in your body. Also keep in mind that the range for 'normal' is usually very wide, when it comes to hormone levels we should be looking for 'optimal' not nor 'normal'
Chronic inflammation can stimulate the ovaries to make too much testosterone. It can also have an affect on your insulin production. Inflammation can come from your diet, lifestyle factors, beauty/ cleaning products and even stress. Finding your root cause is key here.
Diet High in Inflammatory Foods, such a as gluten, sugar and refined carbohydrates
Following on from above, a diet high in inflammatory foods encourages causes insulin levels to rise. As insulin resistance is a common symptom for many women with PCOS, it is important to keep blood sugar levels stable by limiting the amount of carbohydrates and sugars you consume. Having high levels of insulin can cause the ovaries to produce more androgens like testosterone. Many women are also very sensitive to gluten, caffeine and alcohol.
Tumors (very rare cases)
Sex-hormone producing adrenal tumors are very rare tumors and only affect 2 out of every million people. These particular tumors make too much androgen and can either be benign or malignant.
Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia
This is a rare inherited genetic disorder that affects enzyme production in the adrenal glands, interfering with the body’s ability to produce androgens, such as testosterone, as well as cortisol levels.
As you can see, hormone imbalances and high levels of testosterone can be present in many different forms, with many women experiencing varying levels of symptoms.
It is important to remember that we are all different, and that our root causes for hormone imbalances can vary for each individual.
Spend a little time looking into what might be causing yours, seek out a second opinion and find a health practitioner that will support you on your mission to find the root cause, and not just want to cover it up using medication.
High testosterone levels is something that I have personally battle with, (and still have to manage.) So i know how tough it can be!
To combat the symptoms associated with high testosterone levels and PCOS, I created a powerful hormone balancing CYSTERHOOD tea which you can shop here
There are some incredible reviews that I hope will inspire you to stay hopeful, and keep working to balance your hormones, you can read the reviews here
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov › pmc › articles › PMC4130703