Unexplained or sudden weight gain can be an alarming occurrence for women -- and it does not always signify you have been eating too many high-fat foods. A hormonal imbalance can result in excess testosterone production and subsequent weight gain in women. Recognizing the symptoms of this imbalance can help you minimize weight gain.
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Although testosterone is largely considered a male hormone, women also produce testosterone in small amounts, according to Lab Tests Online, a medical testing resource. Excess testosterone levels can indicate an underlying condition, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, an ovarian or adrenal gland tumor or a congenital disease known as adrenocortical hyperplasia. Each of these conditions affects the adrenal glands, which signal the ovaries to produce hormones that develop testosterone.
When a woman experiences a condition affecting the adrenal glands, her body's cells typically are insulin-resistant. Insulin is a hormone the pancreas produces that assist in the breakdown of sugars in the body, according to Patient UK. When your body is insulin-resistant, it has difficulty using insulin, causing excess levels. Excess insulin causes the ovaries to produce excess testosterone. Impaired adrenal gland function also affects the body's processes, including metabolism. The condition also can trigger cravings for high-fat sweet and carbohydrates, according to Women to Women, a women's natural health website. This explains why an estimated 40 percent of women who experience polycystic ovary syndrome can also develop overweight or obesity, according to Patient UK.
Known as an androgen, testosterone is responsible for a man's deep voice, body hair and fertility. When the hormone is overproduced in women, women experience adverse symptoms, including infertility and abnormal menstrual periods, according to MayoClinic.com. Excess testosterone also can cause thinning hair on the head while thicker hair grows on the body. You may experience these symptoms coupled with skin darkening on the armpits, inner thighs, nape of the neck and under the breasts, which can indicate insulin resistance.
Note that the testosterone does not trigger weight gain, but instead is an accessory symptom. Physicians may test for high testosterone levels when a woman experiences a sudden weight gain and the physician suspects polycystic ovary syndrome may be to blame. Because testosterone circulates in the blood, physicians can recommend a blood test to measure the presence of testosterone in your body, according to Lab Tests Online. The sample will be collected from a vein in your arm to test for testosterone's presence.
Treating hormone imbalances can help to reduce a woman's testosterone production, according to Young Woman's Health, a United States government educational website. Physicians most commonly prescribe birth control pills to reduce testosterone and encourage regulation of female hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. Your doctor also may prescribe medications to reduce insulin levels. A healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise also may help to reduce symptoms and encourage weight loss.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.