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Ovarian overproduction of androgens

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. Androgens from other parts of the body can also cause male characteristics to develop in women.

Images

Overproductive ovaries
Follicle development

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 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:

These changes may also occur:

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:

Treatment

Treatment depends on the problem that is causing the increased androgen production. Medicines 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, the following measures can reduce symptoms caused by high androgen levels:

Possible Complications

Infertility and complications during pregnancy may occur.

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

Prevention

Women who have polycystic ovary syndrome can reduce their changes of long-term complications by maintaining a normal weight through healthy diet and regular exercise.

Related Information

Testosterone

References

Bulun SE. Physiology and pathology of the female reproductive axis. In: Melmed S, Auchus RJ, Goldfine AB, Koenig RJ, Rosen CJ, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 17.

Huddleston HG, Quinn M, Gibson M. Polycystic ovary syndrome and hirsutism. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 567.

Lobo RA. Hyperandrogenism and androgen excess: physiology, etiology, differential diagnosis, management. In: Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Lentz GM, Valea FA, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 40.

Rosenfield RL, Barnes RB, Ehrmann DA. Hyperandrogenism, hirsutism, and polycystic ovary syndrome. In: Jameson JL, De Groot LJ, de Kretser DM, et al, eds. Endocrinology: Adult and Pediatric. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 133.

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Review Date: 6/8/2020  

Reviewed By: LaQuita Martinez, MD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Emory Johns Creek Hospital, Alpharetta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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