Farrinstitute is reader-supported. We may receive commissions on purchases made through links on our site.

Low Testosterone in Women: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments


Low Testosterone in Women

Low testosterone in women is a common problem. There are many possible causes including an underactive thyroid gland, high blood sugar, and polycystic ovary syndrome. If you’re experiencing symptoms like decreased sex drive and fatigue that don’t seem to be going away with rest or treatment for other conditions, it may be time to have your testosterone levels checked by your doctor. 

We explore the various reasons why low T can happen in women. We’ll also discuss some common treatments as well as what doctors look out for when testing hormone levels.

Key Takeaways

  • Testosterone plays an essential role in women’s bodies
  • Testosterone deficiencies occur in both men and women
  • A blood test can measure testosterone levels
  • Low testosterone in women causes symptoms like lowered libido, weight gain, and decreased muscle mass
  • Women can increase their testosterone levels through medication, lifestyle changes, and natural supplements

What Does Testosterone Do for a Woman’s Body?

Testosterone plays a vital role in the following bodily functions of women: 

  • Bone growth [1]
  • Sexual function and libido [2]
  • Producing new blood cells, or erythrocytosis [3]

Testosterone is an androgen hormone produced by women’s bodies, specifically in the adrenal glands, ovaries, and fat cells of the peripheral tissues. 

Testosterone is one of three primary sex hormones found in both men and women. However, testosterone levels differ significantly, with womens’ typically being much lower.

low testosterone in women Total testosterone levels in women compared to men Though testosterone levels in women are much lower than in men, it’s still a vital hormone
Source: https://www.hgha.com/testosterone-levels-in-women/
https://www.hgha.com/testosterone-levels-in-men-by-age/

What Does Low Testosterone Do to a Woman?

Low testosterone can result in several adverse effects on women’s health, including: 

  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease [5]
  • Development of insulin resistance [6]
  • Weight gain and obesity

Androgen deficiency in women is most common post-menopause [4]. However, it is not uncommon in pubescent women or those of childbearing age.

These conditions may present alongside other negative symptoms of testosterone deficiency.

Symptoms of Low Testosterone in Women

Due to its essential role in a woman’s body, testosterone deficiency gives rise to various symptoms, including: 

  • Reduced sexual desire [7]
  • Sexual dysfunction [8]
  • Decreased bone density [9]
  • Weight gain [10]
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Reduced lean muscle mass [11]

What Are the Causes of Low Testosterone in Women?

Testosterone insufficiency has several causes: 

  • The pituitary gland no longer releasing sufficient luteinizing hormone (LH) to trigger testosterone production in the ovaries
  • Adrenal insufficiency, due to the adrenal glands not functioning correctly [12]
  • Ovarian failure [13]
  • Aging—once a woman reaches menopause, her ovaries decrease the amount of hormones they produce, leading to lower testosterone levels
  • Obesity [14]

low testosterone in women How weight loss improves testosterone levels Obesity can significantly lower your testosterone levels, and losing about 30% of weight can improve the levels
Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3955331/

What Are the Treatments for Low Testosterone in Women?

Low levels of testosterone in women can be treated through medication, testosterone boosters, testosterone release triggering supplements, or lifestyle changes. However, due to its relative rarity, specific treatments for testosterone deficiency in women have not been studied extensively enough.

How Can a Woman Increase Her Testosterone Level?

Androgen therapy, also known as testosterone replacement therapy, is the most effective treatment for low testosterone levels. However, there are various other supplements and lifestyle changes women can make to raise their testosterone levels in a safer, more gradual way.

Testosterone Supplements for Women 

There are several natural testosterone boosters on the market to trigger or assist the body’s production of the hormone. 

One of the most popular supplements is discussed in detail in our Nugenix Total T review. It is comprised of eight natural ingredients that elevate both total and free testosterone levels, subsequently increasing muscle mass, energy, and sex drive.

Other supplements recommended for people suffering from low testosterone levels trigger the release of the human growth hormone (HGH). 

The benefits of HGH for men and women include weight loss and lean muscle mass gain. In addition, increased HGH levels can counter the physical effects of testosterone insufficiency, although one should carefully consider HGH side effects before using growth hormone-releasing supplements.

Lifestyle Changes

Besides natural supplements, various lifestyle changes could improve testosterone levels and ease the symptoms associated with testosterone deficiency. 

These include: 

  • Consuming a high-protein, low-fat diet. Low protein, high-fat diets can lower your body’s testosterone production [15]
  • Sex therapy may help treat and manage sexual dysfunction associated with low levels of testosterone
  • Exercise, especially resistance training, can naturally stimulate testosterone production [16]
  • Stress may cause lower sexual desire in women [17]. Finding ways to reduce or manage stress levels could help counter the effects of low testosterone on sex drive 

What do you think stress affects most in a woman's libido?

womans libido
Click on any answer to reveal the interesting findings.
Show hint
woman's libido
Contrary to popular belief, physical arousal is the form of arousal most affected by chronic stress.

low testosterone in women How chronic stress affects sex drive in women

Prescription Medications

Due to the essential role of testosterone in maintaining sex drive, women with low testosterone levels may also have hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). 

HSDD is one of the only circumstances under which premenopausal women will be provided with hormone replacement therapy. This is because the adverse effects of testosterone therapy in women, possibly including breast cancer, have not been sufficiently studied or documented [18, 19].

Prescription medications for testosterone deficiency include: 

  • Testosterone patches, which allow absorption of testosterone through the skin, but must be used continuously 
  • Testosterone gel used to decrease the symptoms of testosterone deficiency
  • Testosterone injections, which raise testosterone levels in the blood and reduce the symptoms of testosterone insufficiency

FAQ

Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about low testosterone in women.

How Are Testosterone Levels Tested?

Measuring the level of testosterone in your body usually requires a blood test. In addition, your doctor may recommend a total and free testosterone test to pinpoint which of these should be supplemented. 

Most testosterone in your body is bound to protein, while some of it is bioavailable or free. Therefore, deficiencies in either total or free testosterone could be the cause of the symptoms of low testosterone. 

How Do You Fix Low Testosterone?

You can treat a hormone imbalance like low testosterone by supplementing the testosterone concentrations in the body. This is most commonly done through testosterone therapy, involving hormone injections, patches, or gels to rectify the imbalance.

One can also raise testosterone levels through changes in diet and exercise and by taking natural supplements.

How Much Testosterone Should a Woman Take to Build Muscle?

For increased muscle mass and reduced body fat, women with low testosterone levels are typically prescribed between 0.5 and 2.0mg of compounded testosterone per day.

low testosterone in women Effects of testosterone on lean body mass Testosterone increased lean body mass significantly compared to the placebo
Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6711889/

What Are the Side Effects of Testosterone Replacement Therapy?

Testosterone therapy may produce various adverse effects, including:

  • Possible lower urinary tract symptoms [20]
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Erythrocytosis, or raised red blood cell levels

What Are the Symptoms of Excess Testosterone?

The use of testosterone supplements and hormone replacement therapy must be carried out with caution as elevated testosterone levels in women may cause the development of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), resulting in the following symptoms: 

  • Hirsutism and excess facial hair [21]
  • Enlarged clitoris [22]
  • Acne [23]
  • Balding
  • Missed or irregular periods
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Weight gain
  • Infertility

How Does Bioidentical Testosterone for Females Work?

Bioidentical testosterone treatment is recommended to treat symptoms of low testosterone levels in menopausal and postmenopausal women, as well as conditions like vaginal atrophy and osteoporosis [24, 25].

Bioidentical testosterone is derived from plants and is often preferred over other testosterone therapies due to its natural origins. Furthermore, bioidentical testosterone is identical to the testosterone produced by humans.

Bioidentical testosterone can be administered in the following forms:

  • Transdermal patches
  • Gels and creams
  • Pills
  • Injections

Can Women Take Testosterone Boosters?

Yes, women can take testosterone boosters to rebalance their hormone levels. However, this must always be done under medical supervision as too much testosterone can cause several adverse symptoms and possible health risks.

Conclusion

Despite testosterone deficiency not being a common condition in women, its effects can cause various adverse symptoms. 

A testosterone test can quickly help you ascertain whether or not you have low testosterone levels. Fortunately, there are many treatments available to manage the deficiency as well as its symptoms in women. 

References:

  1. DG;, Khosla S;Monroe. “Regulation of Bone Metabolism by Sex Steroids.” Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28710257/.
  2. E;, Vegunta S;Kling JM;Kapoor. “Androgen Therapy in Women.” Journal of Women’s Health (2002), U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31687883/.
  3. Bachman, Eric, et al. “Testosterone Induces Erythrocytosis via Increased Erythropoietin and Suppressed Hepcidin: Evidence for a New Erythropoietin/Hemoglobin Set Point.” The Journals of Gerontology. Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, Oxford University Press, June 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4022090/.
  4. LM;, Demers. “Androgen Deficiency in Women; Role of Accurate Testosterone Measurements.” Maturitas, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20493647/.
  5. SR;, Davis. “Cardiovascular and Cancer Safety of Testosterone in Women.” Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Obesity, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21415740/.
  6. B;, Kurniawan LB;Adnan E; ;Mulyono. “Insulin Resistance and Testosterone Level in Indonesian Young Adult Males.” Romanian Journal of Internal Medicine = Revue Roumaine De Medecine Interne, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32134740/.
  7. SM;, van Anders. “Testosterone and Sexual Desire in Healthy Women and Men.” Archives of Sexual Behavior, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22552705/.
  8. JM;, Ingram CF;Payne KS;Messore M;Scovell. “Testosterone Therapy and Other Treatment Modalities for Female Sexual Dysfunction.” Current Opinion in Urology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32205812/.
  9. Snyder PJ;Kopperdahl DL;Stephens-Shields AJ;Ellenberg SS;Cauley JA;Ensrud KE;Lewis CE;Barrett-Connor E;Schwartz AV;Lee DC;Bhasin S;Cunningham GR;Gill TM;Matsumoto AM;Swerdloff RS;Basaria S;Diem SJ;Wang C;Hou X;Cifelli D;Dougar D;Zeldow B;Bauer DC;Keaveny . “Effect of Testosterone Treatment on Volumetric Bone Density and Strength in Older Men With Low Testosterone: A Controlled Clinical Trial.” JAMA Internal Medicine, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28241231/.
  10. Seible DM;Gu X;Hyatt AS;Beard CJ;Choueiri TK;Efstathiou JA;Miyamoto DT;Mitin T;Martin NE;Sweeney CJ;Trinh QD;Beckman JA;Basaria S;Nguyen PL; “Weight Gain on Androgen Deprivation Therapy: Which Patients Are at Highest Risk?” Urology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24726149/.
  11. S;, Herbst KL;Bhasin. “Testosterone Action on Skeletal Muscle.” Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15075918/.
  12. GP;, Charmandari E;Nicolaides NC;Chrousos. “Adrenal Insufficiency.” Lancet (London, England), U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24503135/.
  13. Mason A;Wallace AM;Macintyre H;Teoh YP;Bath LE;Critchley HO;Kelnar CJ;Wallace WH;Ahmed SF; “Undetectable Salivary Testosterone in Young Women with Premature Ovarian Failure.” Clinical Endocrinology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16712676/.
  14. M;, Çatakoğlu AB;Kendirci. “Testosterone Replacement Therapy and Cardiovascular Events.” Turk Kardiyoloji Dernegi Arsivi : Turk Kardiyoloji Derneginin Yayin Organidir, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28990951/.
  15. de Oliveira JC;de Moura EG;Miranda RA;de Moraes AMP;Barella LF;da Conceição EPS;Gomes RM;Ribeiro TA;Malta A;Martins IP;Franco CCDS;Lisboa PC;Mathias PCF; “Low-Protein Diet in Puberty Impairs Testosterone Output and Energy Metabolism in Male Rats.” The Journal of Endocrinology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29599416/.
  16. Vingren JL;Kraemer WJ;Ratamess NA;Anderson JM;Volek JS;Maresh CM; “Testosterone Physiology in Resistance Exercise and Training: the up-Stream Regulatory Elements.” Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21058750/.
  17. Raisanen JC;Chadwick SB;Michalak N;van Anders SM; “Average Associations Between Sexual Desire, Testosterone, and Stress in Women and Men Over Time.” Archives of Sexual Behavior, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29845444/.
  18. P;, Meyer. “[Testosterone Therapy in Female Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder].” Revue Medicale Suisse, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27149714/.
  19. N;, Ray A;Fernstrum A;Mahran A;Thirumavalavan. “Testosterone Therapy and Risk of Breast Cancer Development: a Systematic Review.” Current Opinion in Urology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32235278/.
  20. Sahinkanat T;Ozturk E;Ozkan Y;Coskun A;Ekerbicer H; “The Relationship between Serum Testosterone Levels and Bladder Storage Symptoms in a Female Population with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.” Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21107589/.
  21. FB;, Spritzer PM;Barone CR;Oliveira. “Hirsutism in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Pathophysiology and Management.” Current Pharmaceutical Design, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27510481/.
  22. Köşüş A;Kamalak Z;Köşüş N;Hizli D;Eser A; “Clitoral and Labial Sizes in Women Wıth PCOS.” Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology : the Journal of the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26368511/.
  23. Franik G;Bizoń A;Włoch S;Kowalczyk K;Biernacka-Bartnik A;Madej P; “Hormonal and Metabolic Aspects of Acne Vulgaris in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.” European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30058676/.
  24. Sciences, National Academies of, et al. “The Use of Compounded Bioidentical Hormone Therapy.” The Clinical Utility of Compounded Bioidentical Hormone Therapy: A Review of Safety, Effectiveness, and Use., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 July 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK562886/.
  25. Sciences, National Academies of, et al. “The Use of Compounded Bioidentical Hormone Therapy.” The Clinical Utility of Compounded Bioidentical Hormone Therapy: A Review of Safety, Effectiveness, and Use., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 July 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK562886/.
Share this article

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Get our weekly newsletter about the most recent publications and reviews in the world of medical research