Penn State Hershey Medical Center home Penn State Hershey Medical Center home Penn State Hershey: Patient Care home Penn State Hershey: Education home Penn State Hershey: Research home Penn State Hershey: Community home
Penn State Hershey Health Information Library
  Library Home
  Find A Physician
  Find A Practice
  Request An Appointment
  Search Clinical Studies
  Classes and Support Groups
  Ask A Health Librarian
  Subscribe to eNewsletters


Penn State Hershey Health Information Centers
  Bone and Joint
  Cancer
  Children
  Heart
  Men
  Neurology
  Pregnancy
  Seniors
  Women

        Follow Us

Ovarian overproduction of androgens

Definition

Ovarian overproduction of androgens is a condition in which the ovaries make too much testosterone. This leads to the development of male characteristics in a woman. Other hormones, called androgens, from other parts of the body can also cause male characteristics to develop in women.

Causes

In healthy women, the ovaries and adrenal glands produce about 40 to 50% of the body's testosterone. Tumors of the ovaries and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can both cause too much androgen production.

Cushing's disease is a problem with the pituitary gland that leads to excess amounts of corticosteroids. Corticosteroids cause masculine body changes in women. Tumors in the adrenal glands can also cause too much production of androgens and can lead to male body characteristics in women.

Symptoms

High levels of androgens in a female can cause:

  • Acne
  • Changes in female body shape
  • Decrease in breast size
  • Increase in body hair in a male pattern, such as on the face, chin, and abdomen
  • Lack of menstrual periods (amenorrhea)
  • Oily skin

These changes may also occur:

  • Increase in the size of the clitoris
  • Deepening of the voice
  • Increase in muscle mass
  • Thinning hair and hair loss at the front of the scalp on both sides of the head

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider will perform a physical exam. Any blood and imaging tests ordered will depend on your ;symptoms, but may include:
  • 17-hydroxyprogesterone test
  • ACTH test
  • CT scan
  • DHEA blood test
  • Glucose test
  • Insulin test
  • Pelvic ultrasound
  • Prolactin test (if periods come less often or not at all)
  • Testosterone test
  • Total cholesterol test
  • TSH test (if there is hair loss)

Treatment

Treatment depends on the problem that is causing the increased androgen production. Medications can be given to decrease hair production in women with excess body hair, or to regulate menstrual cycles. In some cases, surgery may be needed to remove an ovarian or adrenal tumor.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Treatment success depends on the cause of excess androgen production. If the condition is caused by an ovarian tumor, surgery to remove the tumor may correct the problem. Most ovarian tumors are not cancerous (benign), and will not come back after they have been removed.

In polycystic ovary syndrome, these things can reduce symptoms caused by high androgen levels:

  • Careful monitoring
  • Weight loss
  • Dietary changes
  • Medications
  • Regular vigorous exercise

Possible Complications

Infertility and complications during pregnancy may occur.

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome may be at increased risk for:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Uterine cancer

Prevention

There is no known prevention. Maintaining a normal weight through a healthy diet and regular exercise can reduce your chances of any long-term complications.

References

Bulun SE. The physiology and pathology of the female reproductive axis. In: Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, Kronenberg HM, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 17.

Lobo RA. Hyperandrogenism: physiology, etiology, differential diagnosis, management. In: Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Katz VL, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2012:chap 40.



Review Date: 6/13/2014
Reviewed By: Cynthia D. White, MD, Fellow American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Group Health Cooperative, Bellevue, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
adam.com