Definition - What does Androgen mean?

An androgen is a sex hormone that controls the development and maintenance of male characteristics. The most predominant androgen is testosterone which is produced by the testes. Other androgens include androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA sulfate) which are produced in smaller quantities by the adrenal glands. These adrenal androgens can be converted to testosterone in other tissues. Androgens are produced in both men and women. In women, androgens are produced by the ovaries, adrenal glands, and fat cells and are converted to the female hormones called estrogens.

FertilitySmarts explains Androgen

Women produce about one-twelfth the amount of androgens produced by men. The androgens produced are converted to the female sex hormone estrogen for the development and maintenance of female characteristics and the female reproductive tract. Excessive androgens in women cause hormonal dysfunction and can lead to infertility due to the disruption in the menstrual cycle.

When unconverted androgens are found at high levels in women, menstrual cycles become irregular (oligomenorrhea) or stop completely (amenorrhea). The change in menstrual cycle can affect ovulation and the release of an egg from the ovary. A common cause of androgen excess is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) which also causes excessive hair growth, problems with blood sugar regulation, and acne. Androgen excess can also be caused by Cushing syndrome, problems with the adrenal gland, certain medications, or ovarian tumors. Low androgen levels can cause low libido and are most commonly seen during the transition to menopause.

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