The amount of testosterone in a person’s body can vary throughout their life.

An individual’s testosterone levels depend on age, sex, and health. Generally, males have much higher levels of testosterone in their bodies than females.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms, “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

Testosterone is a hormone known as an androgen. Although people know it primarily as a male sex hormone, females also need certain levels of testosterone. In females, most testosterone converts into the sex hormone estradiol.

In males, the testes produce testosterone, while the ovaries produce testosterone in females. The adrenal glands also produce small amounts of testosterone in both sexes.

Testosterone in males is important for:

  • development during puberty
  • sperm creation
  • strengthening of muscles and bones
  • cognitive health and function
  • heart health
  • sex drive

Testosterone in females is essential for:

  • maintaining levels of other hormones
  • sex drive and fertility
  • making new blood cells
  • cognitive health and function
  • heart health
  • strengthening muscles and bones

There is a link between low testosterone and sex drive and fertility across the sex spectrum.

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The following tables show typical levels of total testosterone in children and adolescents. Doctors measure testosterone in nanograms per deciliter (ng/dl).

Typical total testosterone levels in children and adolescents

AgeMale (in ng/dl)Female (in ng/dl)
7–10 years old1.80 to 5.682.69 to 10.29
13–17 years old208.08 to 496.5816.72 to 31.55

Typical total testosterone levels in adults

Testosterone levels change throughout a person’s lifetime. Below are typical total testosterone levels in males and females.

AgeMale (in ng/dl)Female (in ng/dl)
19 years and older265–92315–70

Doctors may also measure testosterone alongside Tanner staging.

The Tanner scale tracks the visual development of children during puberty according to five fixed stages rather than a person’s specific age.

Because hormone levels change rapidly during puberty and development can occur at different ages for different people, the Tanner scale is a more accurate way to judge changes during puberty than using age.

A testosterone deficiency in the womb can affect the development of a male fetus. It can also affect puberty and may slow or stop a person’s growth or development.

Hormone levels change for people of all sexes as they age. Females experience a more dramatic change in hormones, with levels falling until they reach menopause, while males experience a more gradual change in hormone levels.

Testosterone levels decrease naturally with age in both sexes.

In males, lower testosterone levels can lead to:

Low testosterone levels in females can lead to:

High testosterone levels are unusual in adult males, while children with high testosterone levels may have a growth spurt or start puberty early. High testosterone in all sexes can cause infertility, obesity, and in some cases, metabolic disorders.

Polycystic ovary syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects females. It occurs when the ovaries produce too much testosterone.

Symptoms include:

  • irregular or no periods
  • oily skin
  • acne
  • increased hair growth on the face, back, or chest

It is not clear what causes PCOS, but researchers believe a combination of genes and environment may be responsible.

Steroid use

Anabolic steroids have similar properties to testosterone, and some people use them to build muscle or gain weight. However, steroids can affect testosterone levels in both males and females.

Excessive steroid use can raise testosterone levels in the blood, causing a person’s body to stop producing testosterone.

In males, this testosterone excess can also decrease the amount of sperm the body makes, which may lead to infertility or loss of sex drive.

For females, steroids can cause a deeper voice, baldness, irregular periods, and infertility.

People of all sexes may also experience hair growth on the face and body, greasy skin, and a range of other symptoms.

Anyone who suspects their testosterone levels are high or low should speak to their doctor or undergo testing.

To diagnose low or high testosterone, a healthcare professional will ask about a person’s medical history and perform a physical examination and order tests.

In males, a doctor might:

  • discuss any use of steroids or opiates
  • talk about a person’s development at puberty
  • measure their body mass index and waist size
  • check the hair for any pattern baldness
  • check the size of the testicles and prostate gland

In females, a healthcare professional will usually need to check or ask questions about:

  • menstruation
  • acne or skin conditions
  • body or facial hair
  • muscle bulk

For adolescents, a doctor will look for signs of puberty.

Total testosterone level test

The total testosterone level test is a blood test. The best time to have the test is in the morning when testosterone levels in the blood are usually highest. However, these levels vary throughout the day, so some people may need a retest to confirm the result.

Treatments for low or high testosterone will depend on the underlying health condition.

It is possible to treat males for low testosterone levels with an injection or prescription gel. People using this treatment over the long term could experience potentially severe side effects, such as an increased risk of heart problems.

Females who develop PCOS could treat their symptoms by maintaining a moderate weight. A doctor could also recommend hormonal contraception and fertility treatment.