An overview of understanding the role of testosterone in men and women

Think of testosterone, and images of bearded, muscular men may come to mind since this hormone is primarily associated with men.  But, testosterone is an equal opportunity hormone. It’s found in both men and women, playing a vital role in their lives.  

What is testosterone?

Testosterone is an androgen hormone produced by the adrenal cortex and the testes in men and the ovaries in women.  For both men and women, it helps to regulate sex drive and libido, brain functions, bone mass, muscle mass and strength, and fat distribution.  When either sex is experiencing low testosterone, it can manifest as brain fog, decreased muscle mass, irritability, depression, osteoporosis, erectile dysfunction, and low sex drive. 

Testosterone levels in men and women

A blood test is necessary to check if a man or woman has adequate testosterone levels. There are two kinds of testosterone found in the blood:

  1. Free testosterone is also known as free T – This kind is not chemically bound to anything else
  2. Bound testosterone – This makes up the majority of total testosterone levels.  Around 98 percent of testosterone in the blood is bound to one of two proteins – albumin or sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG).

A doctor will examine free and bound testosterone and total the levels.  With testosterone, the levels will vary throughout the day, with the morning being when it is at its highest and lower in the evening.

General values include:

For a male age 19 or older:

Testosterone total should be between 240-950 ng/dL

Free testosterone should be between 9-30 ng/dL

For a female age 19 or older:

Testosterone total should be between 8-60 ng/dL

Free testosterone should be between 0.3-1.9 ng/dL

The role of testosterone in women

Most people associate testosterone as a male hormone, but it plays an important role in women’s bodies.  The hormone is produced in the female body in the ovaries and the adrenal glands. Testosterone plays a vital role in bone strength, brain function, and the overall development of lean muscle mass and strength.  It can also give a general sense of well-being and higher energy levels.  A crucial component of why women need some testosterone is for maintaining a woman’s libido or sex drive.   If testosterone levels are inadequate in women, their vitality and sense of well-being can diminish.

High levels of testosterone in women can lead to:

  • Infertility
  • Acne
  • Facial hair
  • Male pattern balding
  • Women with low levels of testosterone can result in the following symptoms: 
  • Fatigue
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Weight gain
  • Reduced libido
  • Depression
  • Osteoporosis
  • Irregular periods
  • Anxiety
  • Anorgasmia or the inability to have an orgasm

What is the role of testosterone in men?

The main sex hormone in men is testosterone, and as stated earlier, it is necessary for bringing on the physical changes turning boys into men.  These physical changes include growth of the penis and testes, growth of facial, pubic, and body hair, deepening of the voice, building muscle mass and strong bones, and helping a man achieve his adult height. 

Together, the brain and the pituitary gland, a small gland located at the base of the brain, help control testosterone production by the testes.  From there, testosterone moves through a man’s body, doing its work.  Testosterone levels can change from hour to hour, with the highest level in the morning and lowest at night.  

High levels of testosterone levels in men can lead to:

  • Early puberty 

Unless a man receives testosterone or other steroid treatments, the problem of too much testosterone is not common.  But it could result in:

  • Men consuming more alcoholic beverages
  • Men more likely to smoke
  • Some men may be more likely to participate in risky behaviors such as sexual, injury risk, and even criminal activity. 
  • Low levels of testosterone levels in men can lead to:
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Weak erections or inability to achieve one
  • Low sperm count
  • Enlarged or tender breasts
  • Reduced energy levels and stamina
  • Decreased muscle and bone strength
  • Diminished mental aggressiveness
  • Weight gain


Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy.  Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncolo gy and prostate cancer 911. 


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