The hormone testosterone is commonly associated with masculinity as it is responsible for traits such as strength, body hair, and muscle mass. However, it is produced by the body in both men and women. Low levels of testosterone in men and high levels of testosterone in women can be a sign of serious health problems.
This page explains what a testosterone is, how it is undertaken and what the results may show.
What is a testosterone test?
A testosterone test involves analysing a blood sample to determine the quantity of the hormone present in the body. There are two types of testosterone that can be tested:
- Free testosterone: not attached to a protein
- Attached testosterone: attached to albumin and sex hormone binding globulin
A typical testosterone test involves measuring for both types, which is called a total testosterone test. However, your GP may choose to measure the levels of free testosterone only in order to diagnose certain conditions.
Testosterone levels may be measured in people with symptoms indicating that their testosterone levels are too high or too low. These symptoms include:
|Women (symptoms of high testosterone)||Men (symptoms of low testosterone)|
|Excess facial / body hair
Missed or no periods
|Low sex drive
Decrease in muscle mass
Breast tissue enlargement
A testosterone test can be performed on its own but is usually done alongside a physical exam.
What does a testosterone test show?
The test measures the quantity of testosterone in the body and compares the reading against ‘normal’ levels to assess whether the person’s testosterone is considered low, normal or high. The normal level of testosterone varies depending on age and gender, and also between laboratories. However, as a general guide, a typical NHS laboratory ‘normal’ range is between 7.6 to 31 nmol/L for men and 0.1 to 1.8 nmol/L for women.
The most common cause of heightened testosterone levels is the use of anabolic steroids. Athletes and bodybuilders who supplement with testosterone are at a higher risk experiencing symptoms of high testosterone levels. The possible causes of abnormal levels in women can include polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or much more rarely, cancer of the ovaries and Addison disease. In men, rarer causes of an abnormal level of testosterone include a problem with the pituitary gland, and tumours in the testicles or adrenal glands.
You need to seek advice from your GP should your testosterone level fall outside of the ‘normal’ range.
How long does a testosterone test take?
A testosterone test usually takes less than 5 minutes, as it consists of a simple blood test requiring a small blood sample. There is no specific preparation required, and the person being tested can continue to eat and drink as normal prior to getting tested.
Can very low testosterone be dangerous?
In some cases, low testosterone in men can have serious long-term effects on the body, causing conditions such as osteoporosis (weakening of the bones). You may be recommended to get tested if they are experiencing symptoms of low testosterone such as a low sex drive and difficulties getting an erection.
How do I test my testosterone level?
At a clinic
You can book a health check with one of our Certified Healthcare professionals at one of over 2,000 mobile clinics nationwide. Our Male Hormone Profile package includes a testosterone test, in addition to a wide array of health markers for a detailed view of your health. These include key readings that play an essential role in maintaining men’s general health.
Alternatively, you can get a testosterone test from the comfort of your own home with a single testosterone home test kit. All you need to do is order your kit, take your own sample, send it back in our pre-addressed return envelope, and receive your results online within 8 days.