Androgens like testosterone are sex hormones. Androgens help people enter puberty and mature physically. Females with high androgen levels may develop acne, facial hair and other issues. Males with too little androgen may have low sex drives and develop breasts (gynecomastia). Adrenal gland tumors and other conditions can affect androgen levels.
Androgens are a group of sex hormones. They help start puberty and play a role in reproductive health and body development.
All genders make androgens, but males make more of them. Testosterone is the most common androgen.
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Testosterone is the predominant androgen in all genders. Other androgens include:
In all genders, androgens help with:
In people assigned male at birth (AMAB), androgens contribute to:
In people assigned female at birth (AFAB), other body chemicals convert androgen into estradiol, a form of estrogen. This hormone:
Your healthcare provider uses a calculation called the free androgen index (FAI) to measure androgen levels. FAI starts with a blood test to measure:
SHBG is a protein that carries androgens (testosterone and DHT) and estrogen in the blood. Your provider compares total testosterone to SHBG to determine the FAI or amount of androgen in the blood.
Androgen levels can change throughout the day. They naturally decline with age. A woman’s age, menstrual cycle stage or menopause status can also affect hormone levels.
High levels of androgen (hyperandrogenism) is more commonly a problem for people assigned female at birth (AFAB). The most common cause of hyperandrogenism is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Rarely, adrenal or ovarian tumors case hyperandrogenism.
Low levels of androgen (hypoandrogenism) can lead to:
Androgen can fuel the growth of prostate cancer. Some people take hormone medications to lower the body’s natural production of androgen as part of treatment for prostate cancer.
Low androgen or low testosterone (male hypogonadism) can cause fatigue, anxiety and depression, difficulty concentrating, poor exercise tolerance, low sex drive and erectile dysfunction. It can also lead to breast development (gynecomastia).
People with polycystic ovary syndrome or high androgen levels may have:
Androgen helps genitals as the fetus develops in your uterus. At birth, some babies have disorders of sex differentiation. These conditions affect a child’s reproductive organs and how the genitals look.
A parent may pass a gene mutation (change) to a child. The gene mutation can cause:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
While some people view androgens as primarily male sex hormones, these hormones help people enter puberty and develop physically and sexually. When androgen levels are too low or too high, it can affect your energy level and sex drive. Unhealthy androgen levels can also increase your risk of problems like diabetes. A blood test can measure androgen levels. Your healthcare provider can treat tumors and other issues that affect androgen levels.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/24/2021.
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