What are Androgens?
We mention androgens all the time in blogs but what are they? Sometimes keeping track of all these terms can be a little overwhelming but we're hoping this blog helps! Androgens are present in both males and females but in different levels. For men they help create male traits like facial hair and a deep voice and even help with their reproductive activity. Which is why you'll sometimes see androgens referred to as "male hormones." The main androgens are testosterone and androstenedione.
So why do androgens matter to you, why should you read this blog? A lot of what we talk about at S'moo is hormone imbalances and we mention androgens often, especially because S'moo was created to help women with PCOS. Hopefully this blog will help you be better informed to better absorb future blogs, while also understanding the importance of this hormone and how it can cause side effects based on its levels.
1: What do Androgens do for women?
Androgens have more than 200 actions in women, the main purpose of androgens is to be converted into estrogen, a female hormone. Which is why when it is low or high, it can result in very different side effects you'll want to know about.
2: Where are androgens made?
For women, androgens are produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands and fat cells. You'll first see androgens at work during puberty with pubic and underarm hair. However they also do more for the inside of your body like help regulate organs including your reproductive tract, kidneys, liver and muscles. Androgens are part of estrogen synthesis that help keep sexual desire going as well as satisfaction.
Symptoms of low levels of androgen in women
- lethargy (tiredness)
- loss of muscle mass and strength
- loss of libido
- lack of motivation
- low wellbeing
- lowered mood
Symptoms of high levels of androgens in women
- Hirsutism (excess hair grown on the chin, upper lip, back)
- Thinning hair or balding
- Insulin resistance
- High blood pressure
Some conditions associated with high androgen levels include
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Tumors on the adrenal gland
- Tumors on the ovaries
- Cushing’s disease
3: What are the types of androgens?
It's a little confusing. You'll often see articles using the word androgen and testosterone synonymous. This might be because androgens are a group of hormones. A well-known androgen is testosterone but dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is the hormone in the "group" that has the biggest effect on androgen receptors.
This is important to know as your healthcare provider may test your blood if they believe you have high levels of androgens and suspect PCOS.
4: Why does low androgen occur?
Often you'll see a transition in androgen levels near menopause. Your androgen levels do decrease with age, beginning a decline in a woman's 20s, by menopause androgen production will be at 50% of what it once was. Androgen levels decline after menopause resulting in hot flashes and bone loss. Signs of this will most likely not be noticed until women are in their late 50s or early 60s.
5: What is happening with High Androgen Levels?
High levels of androgens, whether or not you have PCOS, have serious health consequences, such as insulin resistance and diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can also be a result of high androgens which affects 10% of women with "free" testosterone (extra testosterone because of high androgens). PCOS has symptoms like irregular or absent menstrual periods, infertility, blood sugar disorders (prediabetes and type 2 diabetes), and, in some cases, symptoms hirsutism, thinning hair or balding and acne.
A common misconception is that to have PCOS you must be overweight or obese, however that isn't true, some women have a normal body weight while experiencing PCOS.
Hyperandrogenism can also cause high androgen levels. Congenital adrenal hyperplasia afflicts 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 18,000 Americans, which about half are women. Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is a disorder that directly affects the adrenal glands and the production of the body’s hormones. Symptoms of CAH can be infertility, masculine characteristics, early appearance of pubic hair and severe acne.
6: Why do we need androgen?
You're probably a little overwhelmed by what can happen with too much or too little androgens and it can be easy to forget why we need them. For women, androgens are important because they are converted in to estrogen. Estrogen not only develops female secondary sex characteristics it also regulates your menstrual cycle and is involved in thickening the endometrium. Not to mention, androgens (the ones that aren't converted into estrogen) play a role in increasing sex drive and slowing bone loss.
7: What should you do to regulate your androgen levels?
Take a look at this blog where I dove into to balancing your hormones with S'moo, it breaks down all the ingredients and why it helps regulate your hormones. Originally created to help with PCOS it may be something that can help you too! Get all the info here: https://thesmooco.com/blogs/blog/how-smoo-balances-your-hormones