We all know what Menopause is about It starts slowly for some people, faster for others, but the results it is always the same, you end up having a lack of hormones that creates different symptoms.
The severity of those symptoms depends on the individual. So, a lack of hormones can be really detrimental to our female bodies, and it is really shown by menopause. However, on the opposite end of the spectrum, if our bodies have too much hormones, or too much of one single hormone, this can be detrimental too. For example, if you are experiencing high testosterone levels there could be some dangerous side effects
If you are experiencing high testosterone levels there could be some dangerous side effects
It’s important to see a GP if you suspect you have too much testosterone as it could be the result of an underlying chronic condition, such as Hirsutism, PolyCystic Ovary Syndrome and Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia.
What are these conditions?
Hirsutism: is a condition of unwanted, male-pattern hair growth that happens in women. It results in excessive amounts of dark hair on the body areas where men typically grow hair and women do not — face, chest and back. Usually, in normal conditions, the amount of body hair of one person is largely determined by the genetic makeup. There’s a wide range of what is considered normal hair distribution, thickness and colour due to differences in heredity (therefore genetics) and ethnicity. However, hirsutism is a medical condition that can arise from excess male hormones called androgens, therefore primarily testosterone. It can also be due to a specific family trait. Hirsutism is stiff and dark body hair, appearing on the body where women don’t commonly have hair. What’s considered excessive can vary depending on ethnicity and culture. In synthesis, it has to be diagnosed by a doctor.
PolyCystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects woman’s hormone levels. Basically, women with PCOS produce higher-than-normal amounts of male hormones, while still producing the female ones. This hormone imbalance causes to skip menstrual periods and makes it harder for them to get pregnant. PCOS also causes hair growth on the face and body (similar to hirsutism but not as dramatic), and baldness. And it can contribute to long-term health problems like the onset of diabetes and heart disease.
Birth control pills which stabilise the hormone levels and diabetes drugs can help fix the hormone imbalance underlying the pathology and improve overall symptoms.
Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia is an inherited condition caused by mutations in genes responsible for enzymes involved in the production of steroid hormones in the adrenal glands. It is a genetic inherited disease usually diagnosed in early puberty. The most common enzyme defect, the so called 21-hydroxylase deficiency, leads to an excessive amounts of male hormones being produced by the adrenal glands. Usually in patients with congenital adrenal hyperplasia, the body recognises the lack of cortisol (due to the genetic mutations), and responds by stimulating the adrenal glands to try to produce ‘sufficient levels’ of cortisol (a steroid hormone, in the glucorticoid class which is involved in a number of functions in the body). However, because the biologic tool responsible to use the precursors of cortisol for its synthesis is deficient, the adrenal glands cannot produce cortisol and instead there is an excessive amounts of these steroid precursors. Since steroid precursors are mostly androgenic, i.e., similar to testosterone, an excessive accumulation in the body leads to development of male characteristics and precocious (early) puberty.
There are more serious side effects of severe testosterone imbalance which can lead to infertility and obesity. Some of the symptoms you may be experiencing if you have an excess of testosterone can be:
- excess body hair, specifically facial hair
- enlarged clitoris
- decreased breast size
- deepening of the voice
- increased muscle mass
Overly high levels of testosterone in women can also cause:
- irregular menstrual cycles
- low libido
- changes in mood
Too much testosterone in women can lead as well to irregular or absent periods as already explained above. However, this can be hard to distinguish from the normal lightening of the periods due to menopause.
If you are having some of the symptoms listed above, along with period lightening, it is probably time to have your hormones checked. It might not just be perimenopause what you are experiencing. In fact, maintaining the right balance of steroids is important during adult life to avoid the complications of osteoporosis, obesity and hypertension.
By Ornella Cappellari