Testosterone, the primary male hormone, or androgen, is produced by women as well as men. In women, the adrenal gland and ovaries produce androgens. High testosterone levels in women cause excess hair growth, cessation of menstrual periods, acne and hair loss.
The most common cause of excess androgen production is polycystic ovary disease, where the ovaries produce too many androgens, a disorder that affects 5 to 10 percent of women, the Merck Manual reports. Congenital adrenal hyperplasia, a rare congenital disease which increases androgen production and ovarian tumors also raise testosterone levels in women. Treatments include medications and lifestyle changes.
Low dose glucocorticosteroids such as prednisone or dexamethasone given daily for two or three months can reduce adrenal gland androgen production, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists reports. Glucocorticosteroids reduce acne and may improve fertility, as well as mildly reducing hirsuitism, excess hair growth.
Metformin, a medication used to lower blood glucose levels in people with Type 2 diabetes, also helps treat high testosterone levels in women. Metformin may help women lose weight, which also reduces androgen levels and decreases excess hair growth, the National Women's Health Information Center reports. Metformin may also induce ovulation in women who aren't having normal menstrual cycles. Gastrointestinal side effects such as bloating, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can occur in women taking metformin. Women taking metformin should have glucose, kidney and liver function levels checked periodically, the Merck Manual recommends.
Oral contraceptives, commonly called birth control pills, can also lower testosterone levels. Oral contraceptives decrease acne and hirsuitism and also help prevent male pattern hair loss, or alopecia, in women. Taking oral contraceptives can mask fertility problems caused by lack of ovulation. Women with a history of blood clots or migraines should not take oral contraceptives, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists advises.
Spironolactone, an antiandrogen, blocks the effects of androgens such as testosterone. Spironolactone improves hair loss from alopecia. However, this drug can cause birth defects and should not be taken by women who might get pregnant, MayoClinic.com warns. Fatigue, dizziness, headaches and reduced sex drive can affect women taking spironolactone.
As many as 55 to 65 percent of women with elevated testosterone levels are overweight, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists states. Weight loss of as little as 7 percent can improve symptoms of hyperandrogenism, high androgen levels, and improve fertility, the same source adds. Regular exercise helps normalize blood glucose levels and increases excess weight loss.