Although testosterone is a hormone usually associated with men, it is also produced in small quantities by the ovaries and adrenal glands in women. A testosterone level is generally obtained in women to evaluate the presence of male body characteristics, excessive or abnormal hair growth, infertility, decreased sex drive and irregular menstrual periods. A testosterone test may be included in diagnostic testing for ovarian or adrenal gland cancers. Testosterone affects bone density, muscle mass and sex drive in women.
A blood sample for a testosterone level is obtained from a vein in the arm or hand by a health care professional and the sample is sent to a laboratory for processing. Usually fasting is not required before this hormone level is drawn. You physician may ask you to withhold certain medications that could affect the test results. Risks associated with a blood draw include infection of the blood draw site, excessive bleeding, feeling light-headed, fainting and blood accumulation under the skin.
According to MedlinePlus.com, a normal testosterone level for an adult female is 20 to 80 nanograms per deciliter. Testosterone levels fluctuate during the day, but are highest in the morning so blood should be drawn as close to the morning as possible. Some laboratories may have different normal testosterone ranges. Based on your results, your physician will decide if your testosterone level is abnormal.
Medications that may cause an increased testosterone level in women are anticonvulsants, barbiturates, estrogens and oral contraceptives. Medications that may cause a decreased level of testosterone include androgens, dexamethasone, diethylstilbestrol, digoxin, alcohol, steroids, ketoconazole, phenothiazine and spironolactone.
Symptoms of an increased testosterone level in women include irregular or missed menstrual periods, deepening of the voice, acne, decreased breast size, weight gain, increased muscle mass, enlargement of the clitoris, receding hairline and an abnormal growth of thick, dark body hair.
Increased Testosterone Levels
Increased levels of testosterone in women may indicate idiopathic hirsutism, polycystic ovaries, trophoblastic tumor, congenital andrenocortical hyperplasia, adrenal tumor and ovarian tumor. Treatment options to decrease testosterone levels include birth control pills, corticosteroids and oral estrogen.
Decreased Testosterone Levels
Decreased testosterone levels in women may indicate Addison’s disease, an underactive pituitary gland, prolactimona and loss of ovarian function. Testosterone therapy is an option, depending on your age and medical history, to increase testosterone levels. There are not enough studies to fully understand the benefits and long-term effects of testosterone therapy in women.