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The endocrine system is where the production and maintenance of hormone levels takes place in the human body. An androgen, with the most abundant one being testosterone, is a type of hormone that is responsible for the development of the male reproductive system and male characteristics such as facial hair, chest hair and a broader bone structure. Testosterone is mostly produced in a male’s testes; however, women also produce small amounts of testosterone in their bodies.
Regardless of sex, when a person’s testosterone levels are abnormal, there are side effects. Testosterone levels in men may be increased because of hormone therapy as a result of removal of one or both testicles due to prostate cancer, or because of the use of synthetic testosterone found in such substances as anabolic steroids. Testosterone side effects caused by an increase in the body may include hypocalcaemia, tumors in the liver, facial hair, acne, fluid retention, development of a deeper voice, nausea, changes in sex drive and performance, anger, rage, depression and headaches.
Women may also increase their testosterone levels through steroid use or the overuse of prescribed synthetic testosterone, but women, unlike men, may have a naturally occurring increase in their testosterone level. This can occur after a hysterectomy, but usually occurs during and after a woman goes through menopause. Testosterone side effects caused by increased testosterone levels in the body may be the same for women as they are for men, however long-term increased testosterone side effects in women have not been studied.
Both men and woman are able to experience a natural loss of testosterone. A man will also have a decrease in testosterone because of the removal of one or both of the testes due to trauma or cancer. Testosterone side effects caused by a decrease in levels in the body include hair loss, loss of muscle mass, loss of sex drive, erectile dysfunction, osteoporosis, fatigue, memory loss, anemia and weight gain.
It is important to note that the long-term effects of testosterone replacement therapy in women have not been studied, largely due to the ongoing debate surrounding any kind of hormone replacement therapy. Testosterone replacement therapy is used very rarely in women and requires that a woman’s estrogen and other hormones are in balance. Doctors do know that oral testosterone supplements negatively affect cholesterol levels in the body and women who are pregnant should not take testosterone because of possible effects on the fetus.