Testosterone is often called a “male” hormone. Some people mistakenly believe only men have testosterone. In reality, testosterone is an important hormone needed for the sexual health and well-being of both men and women.
Hormones are chemicals made by the body to control different functions. They act as messengers, sending signals from the brain to different organs and glands to keep the body functioning as it should. The endocrine glands are special glands in the body that make hormones. Men and women produce testosterone in the adrenal glands, which are located on top of each kidney. Men also produce large amounts of testosterone in the testicles. Women produce smaller amounts of testosterone in the ovaries.
What is testosterone?
Testosterone is correctly called a sex hormone because it boosts the sex drive in both men and women. Testosterone also boosts a woman’s strength and improves mental sharpness. On average, women produce only about one-seventh the amount of testosterone each day that is normal for a man. But this amount is critical because a woman’s body then converts the testosterone into estrogen. So if a woman does not have testosterone, her body cannot make estrogen, which is the primary female hormone.
Testosterone is responsible for a variety of functions in the body including:
• Stimulates development of bones, muscles, skin, hair, and sex organs
• Enhances libido (sex drive)
• Improves the ability to think clearly
• Enhances visual skills
• Affects moods
Symptoms of low testosterone
Testosterone levels naturally decrease as a woman ages. Other conditions involving the ovaries or adrenal glands can also result in low testosterone levels. Symptoms of low testosterone include:
• Reduced libido – lack of sexual desire or responsiveness
• Increased fat gain
• Weakness in bones and muscles
• Reduced strength and endurance
• Mood changes and depression
Symptoms of high testosterone
Excess testosterone can also cause problems in the normal function of the body. Symptoms of high testosterone include:
• Increased hair growth, especially male pattern hair growth
• Male pattern baldness
• Lower voice pitch
• Skin problems
• Mood swings
• Changes in body shape
Basic lifestyle changes including reducing stress and getting enough exercise may help balance testosterone levels in the body. Testosterone is one of several hormones that can be given as a supplement during hormone replacement therapy. A following article will discuss further treatments for imbalanced testosterone levels.