Hyperandrogenaemia

Definition - What does Hyperandrogenaemia mean?

Hyperandrogenemia is a condition in which the blood contains too many androgens, which are the primary male sex hormones. Ovaries, fat cells, and adrenal glands produce androgens in females but to a lesser amount as that of males. Certain conditions, however, increase the production of androgens in females. Excess androgens in women can cause masculinizing features such as acne, excess hair growth at unusual body sites, and interruption ovulation.

FertilitySmarts explains Hyperandrogenaemia

The following conditions are causes of hyperandrogenemia:

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Use of androgenic medications (such as for breast cancer) or illicit androgens (such as anabolic steroids)
  • Tumors of the ovaries that produce excess androgens
  • Tumors of adrenal glands
  • Increased insulin levels in blood
  • A birth defect of adrenal glands called congenital adrenal hyperplasia

The androgens exist in both free and bound forms in the blood. Free androgens are the ones circulating in the blood whereas the bound androgens are bound to a hormone, named sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) that keeps the levels of free androgens in the blood stable. SHBG and free androgen levels are inversely related to each other. When the blood levels of SHBG fall, the levels of free androgens rise. The excess androgens, in turn, cause masculinizing features in women.

Women with hyperandrogenemia show the following signs and symptoms:

  • Excess hair growth in unusual areas such as face, upper lips, armpits
  • Acne
  • Oily skin
  • Irregular menstrual periods or no periods at all
  • Weight gain
  • Deepening of voice
  • Difficulty conceiving because high androgen levels can interfere with ovulation. Hyperandrogenemia is found to be a cause of infertility in women pursuing IVF
  • Androgens are converted to estrogens in the body; excess estrogen production promotes endometrial and breast cancer

A laboratory test is used to evaluate the levels of total and free testosterone and other androgens in the blood. Abnormally high levels of these hormones indicate hyperandrogenemia.

Treatment depends on the underlying cause of increased androgen production. Medicines, called anti-androgens can help lower the androgen levels in blood and reduce the respective symptoms such as regulating menstrual cycles. In some cases, surgery may be required to remove an ovarian or adrenal tumor.

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