The primary androgens are testosterone and androstenedione, which are found in both men and women. You may think of androgens as masculine hormones, but don’t be fooled.
Androgens are alive and well in both men and women, although in different quantities. Even though estrogen has more than 200 functions in women, androgen has a larger concentration.
Keep on reading for our full breakdown of everything you need to know about androgens. We’ll cover their types, and even what happens when you have too little or too many androgens running through your veins.
What Are Androgens?
Male sex hormones are commonly known as androgens. This hormone is crucial in the onset of puberty. It’s also critical for the development of a healthy reproductive system and a healthy physical structure.
Androgens are produced by both sexes, however, men produce more than females. The most prevalent androgen is testosterone.
The male and female reproductive systems produce androgens. It’s one of the many responsibilities of the testicles and the ovaries. These hormones are also produced by the adrenal glands, which are set above each kidney.
Common Types of Androgens
In both sexes, testosterone is the primary androgen. Yet, there are other androgens like the following:
• Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)
• DHEA sulfate (DHEA-S)
• Dihydrotestosterone (DHT)
Any of the mentioned androgens have to work in balance and equilibrium. Otherwise, you start seeing androgen-related disorders popping up.
Disorders Associated With Androgens: Too Much
Think of acne and hirsutism (excessive hair growth in “inappropriate” locations, such as the chin or upper lip). As well as, hair loss on the head may all arise from excess androgens (balding).
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is characterized by irregular or nonexistent menstrual cycles. Also, signs of infertility, and blood sugar abnormalities (prediabetes and type 2 diabetes). And, in rare instances, symptoms include acne and excessive hair growth.
There is a tiny number of women with PCOS who have normal weight. Menstruating women with or without PCOS are at risk for major health problems. These include insulin resistance and diabetes. As well as, heart disease-related conditions like high cholesterol and hypertension.
Congenital adrenal hyperplasia and other adrenal abnormalities, including ovarian or adrenal tumors, are additional reasons for high androgen levels.
PCOS is the most common cause of high androgen levels, accounting for roughly half of all cases of hyperandrogenism. Athletes who take anabolic steroids for performance-enhancing purposes are also at risk.
Thankfully, there are new possible medications and anti-androgens hitting the market annually, like the RU58841 solution.
Low Levels of Androgen: Too Little
There are many side effects of low androgen levels. These include poor sexual desire (libido) and weariness. Also, a diminished feeling of well-being, and an increased risk of bone loss and osteoporosis.
Androgen insufficiency, including hyperandrogenism, frequently remains untreated as a result of symptoms. Women may have low androgen levels at any age. Although they are most frequent during the transition to menopause. Or, “perimenopause,” a word used to characterize the period before menopause (usually two to eight years).
In a woman’s 20s, her androgen levels begin to decrease. And, by the time she enters menopause, they have dropped 50% or more from their peak. The androgen production in the adrenal glands drops and the mid-cycle ovarian androgen spike diminishes or disappears entirely.
In the decade after menopause, the ovarian function continues to diminish. Many women’s hot flashes and bone loss are worsened by this additional androgen reduction. Women in their late 50s and early 60s may not see these impacts until they are in their late 60s.
How Can Medical Professionals Evaluate Your Androgen Levels?
Androgen levels may be measured using a formula termed the “free androgen index” (FAI). A blood test is the first step in diagnosing FAI. They measure the following indicators:
• Total testosterone
• Free testosterone
• Sex-hormone-binding globulin (SHBG)
As a carrier protein for androgens (such as testosterone and DHT), SHBG is a vital component of the human body. The FAI, or the quantity of androgen in your blood, is calculated by comparing the total testosterone in your system to the SHBG.
During the course of the day, androgen levels may fluctuate. Because of their natural aging process, they eventually fade away. Hormone levels may also be affected by a woman’s age, menstrual cycle stage, or menopausal status.
The Nuances of Diagnosis
Androgen levels may be either excessively high (hyperandrogenism) or low (hypoandrogenism). A doctor can determine whether your symptoms indicate abnormal hormone levels and arrange a blood test to do so. Blood testing, on the other hand, may be deceptive and inconclusive since there is no consensus on what constitutes “normal” androgen levels in women.
As a woman ages, her menstrual cycle, and her menopausal state all affect her estrogen levels. Several laboratory tests designed for males may not be sensitive enough to reliably determine the levels of testosterone in women. A high androgen level diagnosis is simpler than a low androgen level diagnosis.
If you feel that you have a disease known as hyperandrogenic, it is critical to get a diagnosis and begin treatment as soon as possible. Hyperandrogenism may cause unwanted hair to grow on your upper lip and chin, which can be a nuisance.
Anxiety, melancholy, and antisocial behavior may be exacerbated by the clinical signs of hyperandrogenemia (chronic acne, excessive facial or body hair, thinning hair on the scalp, and obesity) that affect adolescent girls and women in their reproductive years. High levels of androgens have been linked to increased sexual tension in women.
Androgens In Women And Men: Explained
If you never considered yourself a fan of the hard sciences, trying to understand how androgens work can be a bit overwhelming at first. We hope that our guide has shed some light on what androgens are all about, and what happens when there’s too little or too many of them in the human body.
And, if you liked reading our explainer, then you’ll love checking out our additional posts and guides all aimed at enjoying better health in our health and lifestyle sections.