Testosterone is commonly considered a male hormone, but is also found, in much smaller amounts, in women. A member of the androgen group of hormones, testosterone is produced in the adrenal glands and ovaries of women. Despite its relatively low levels, testosterone in women aids in the areas of bone and muscle density, sex drive, appetite, fat distribution, and an overall sense of well being.
Too much testosterone in women can result in the development of what are considered male characteristics, such as baldness or increased hair growth. It can also contribute to irregular menstrual cycles and acne. When testosterone levels are too low, women will often experience a reduced libido. Other than menopause, some of the conditions that can lower levels of testosterone for women include childbirth, endometriosis, drug and alcohol abuse, and chemotherapy.
Increasing the levels of testosterone in women is one of the techniques used to treat the symptoms many women experience during menopause. The ovaries and adrenal glands gradually produce less estrogen and progesterone as well as testosterone. The absence of sufficient levels of these hormones often results in hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness, and insomnia, as well as other symptoms. Hormone replacement therapy attempts to replace some or all of these hormones in an effort to alleviate these symptoms.
A common characteristic that women often share during menopause is a reduced libido. Testosterone therapy, which is the addition of testosterone to a hormone replacement therapy regimen, is often implemented because of the loss of sex drive. This therapy is not recommended for women who could possibly become pregnant due to potential dangers to the fetus. There are also cautions against the use of testosterone in women who have experienced heart disease, breast cancer, uterine cancer, or liver disease.
Testosterone for women can be administered in different forms and methods of delivery. Testosterone creams and patches are often preferred. With an oral testosterone, such as that found in the pill form of testosterone for women, the hormone must pass through the liver to be processed. This creates the possibility of cholesterol levels being adversely affected.
Certain medical conditions, such as the presence of ovarian or adrenal tumors, can stimulate an overproduction of testosterone for women. This can result in the development of masculine characteristics. One of the more common manifestations is excessive body hair. The menstrual cycle can also be disrupted.