Testosterone Levels in Teenagers

Hormones influence many body systems, human growth and development. Two major hormones are testosterone and estrogen 13. Testosterone is often called a “male” hormone, even though both males and females secrete testosterone as well as estrogen 13. The difference lies in the amounts. Boys and men secrete more testosterone while women and girls secrete more estrogen 13. The two hormones work together to maintain overall health.

Testosterone and Puberty

Testosterone is secreted by the adrenal glands in both boys and girls, as well as by the ovaries in girls and the testes in boys 13. During puberty, boys begin to secrete higher amounts of testosterone, which leads to the development of characteristics such as a deeper voice, a beard, hair on the chest, underarms and genitals, and increased muscle mass 13. Girls, on the other hand, respond to increased estrogen during puberty by developing breasts and fat in areas such as the abdomen, hips and buttocks. Teens of both sexes, however, should continue to secrete testosterone despite the changes of puberty 13.

Testosterone Tests

Blood tests can check for testosterone levels 123. The test usually consists of two parts -- a total testosterone and a free testosterone 123. The total testosterone measures the entire amount of testosterone in the body, while free testosterone measures the testosterone not attached to proteins 13. Testosterone levels that are too high or too low can signal problems with various parts of the hormonal system 13. For example, the pituitary gland in the brain secretes two different hormones that regulate the manufacture of testosterone 13. A low testosterone level may mean there is a problem with the pituitary 13. Normal testosterone levels vary among individuals, but the range for males is 300 to 1,000 ng/dL -- or nanograms per deciliter -- and the normal range for females is 15 to 70 ng/dL, according to MedlinePlus 13.

High Testosterone

Hormonal balance is important for all hormones, and that includes testosterone 13. MedlinePlus says high levels of testosterone in teen boys can be a sign of early puberty, tumors of the testicles or hyperthyroidism -- a high level of thyroid hormone in the blood 123. High testosterone may also indicate that the teen is using steroids, also called androgens or anabolic steroids 13. Since testosterone is normally low in teen girls, a high level usually means there is a problem 13. Teen girls with high testosterone levels might also be using steroids, or could have polycystic ovarian syndrome or a tumor of the ovary or the adrenal gland 135. Drugs such as anticonvulsants -- drugs given for seizure disorders -- or sleeping pills called barbiturates can increase testosterone levels 13.

Low Testosterone

Abnormally low testosterone, especially in teen boys, often means a health problem, as healthy teen boys usually have testosterone levels in the high end of the range 13. Alcoholism can cause a decreased testosterone level in males 13. Genetic diseases can cause a low testosterone in males and diseases of the pituitary gland can cause low testosterone in boys and girls 13. Physical injury to the testes or viral diseases such as mumps can also decrease testosterone levels in boys by impairing production 13. According to a March 2013 article in “Clinical Endocrinology,” teen boys who were obese at the time of the test had testosterone levels as much as 40 to 50 percent lower than boys of normal weight 123.

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