Blood testing is one of the most common ways to check hormone levels. This test can detect testosterone, estrogen, cortisol and thyroid levels.
What Is a Testosterone Test?
It checks the level of testosterone in your blood. Your doctor uses it to diagnose conditions caused by too much or too little testosterone.
During puberty, testosterone builds a man’s muscles, deepens his voice, puts hair on his chest, and makes his penis grow. Throughout a man’s life, the hormone also helps produce sperm and keep up his sex drive.
Women make testosterone too, but in smaller amounts. They produce it in their ovaries. It helps maintain hormone balance and regulates other body functions.
What Does the Testosterone Test Measure?
Testosterone travels through your blood in two ways:
- Attached to the proteins albumin and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG)
- Free — not attached to any proteins
Usually you’ll get a total testosterone test as a screening test. This measures both free and attached testosterone. To diagnose certain conditions, doctors sometimes look only at free testosterone levels.
In males, the testosterone test can help find the reason for sexual problems, like reduced sex drive or erectile dysfunction. If you’re having a hard time getting your partner pregnant, the test can tell if your blood testosterone level is low. A low testosterone level can also mean a problem with the hypothalamus or pituitary gland, which controls how much testosterone your body makes.
In females, this test can find the reason you’re missing periods, not having periods, having a hard time getting pregnant or experiencing male patterns of hair growth such as on your chest or face. Doctors can also use it to diagnose polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which causes elevated testosterone. That’s a hormone problem that can cause irregular periods and make it hard to get pregnant. Testosterone testing is part of the work-up of certain adrenal tumors.
Why Would I Get This Test?
Your doctor might order it if you have symptoms of low or high testosterone.
Symptoms of low testosterone in men include:
- Fatigue, depression, or trouble concentrating
- Hair loss
- Loss of muscle mass
- Low sex drive
- Swollen breasts
- Trouble getting or keeping an erection
- Weak bones — called osteoporosis