Navigate Up

Full Library - A-Z Index


Print This Page

Ovarian overproduction of androgens

Ovarian overproduction of androgens is a condition in which the female 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 the development of male characteristics in women.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

In healthy women, the ovaries and adrenal glands produce about 40 - 50% of the body's testosterone. Both tumors of the ovaries and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can cause excess androgen production.

Cushing's disease, an abnormality in the pituitary gland, causes excess amounts of corticosteroids, which cause masculine body changes in women. Also, tumors in the adrenal glands can cause overproduction of androgens and lead to male body characteristics in women.

Symptoms

Hyperandrogenism:

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

Virilization:

  • Clitoromegaly (enlargement of the clitoris)
  • Deepening of the voice
  • Increase in muscle mass
  • Temporal balding (thinning hair and hair loss)

Signs and tests

  • 17-hydroxyprogesterone test
  • ACTH test
  • CT scan
  • DHEA blood test
  • Glucose test
  • Insulin test
  • Pelvic ultrasound
  • Prolactin (if periods are infrequent or absent) test
  • 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 patients who have excess body hair (hirsutism) or to regulate menstrual cycles. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove an ovarian or adrenal tumor.

Expectations (prognosis)

The success of the treatment depends on what caused the excess androgen production. If the condition is caused by an ovarian tumor, surgical removal of the tumor may correct the problem. Most ovarian tumors are not cancerous (benign), and will not come back after they've been removed.

In polycystic ovary syndrome, the following can reduce symptoms caused by increased androgen levels:

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

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 healthy diet and regular exercise can reduce your chances of any long-term complications.

References

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

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: Saunders Elsevier;2011:chap 17.

Updated: 5/31/2012

Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Redmond, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com