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Testosterone

How It Is Done

The health professional taking a sample of blood will:

  • Wrap an elastic band around your upper arm to stop the flow of blood. This makes the veins below the band larger so it is easier to put a needle into the vein.
  • Clean the needle site with alcohol.
  • Put the needle into the vein. More than one needle stick may be needed.
  • Attach a tube to the needle to fill it with blood.
  • Remove the band from your arm when enough blood is collected.
  • Put a gauze pad or cotton ball over the needle site as the needle is removed.
  • Put pressure to the site and then a bandage.

How It Feels

The blood sample is taken from a vein in your arm. An elastic band is wrapped around your upper arm. It may feel tight. You may feel nothing at all from the needle, or you may feel a quick sting or pinch.

Risks

There is very little chance of a problem from having a blood sample taken from a vein.

  • You may get a small bruise at the site. You can lower the chance of bruising by keeping pressure on the site for several minutes.
  • In rare cases, the vein may become swollen after the blood sample is taken. This problem is called phlebitis. A warm compress can be used several times a day to treat this.
  • Ongoing bleeding can be a problem for people with bleeding disorders. Aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), and other blood-thinning medicines can make bleeding more likely. If you have bleeding or clotting problems, or if you take blood-thinning medicine, tell your doctor before your blood sample is taken.

Results

A testosterone test checks the level of this male hormone (androgen) in the blood.

Normal

The normal values listed here—called a reference range—are just a guide. These ranges vary from lab to lab, and your lab may have a different range for what's normal. Your lab report should contain the range your lab uses. Also, your doctor will evaluate your results based on your health and other factors. This means that a value that falls outside the normal values listed here may still be normal for you or your lab.

Your doctor will have your test results in a few days.

Total testosterone1

Men

270–1070 ng/dL (9–38 nmol/L)

Women

15–70 ng/dL (0.52–2.4 nmol/L)

Children (depends on sex and age at puberty)

2–20 ng/dL or 0.07–0.7 nmol/L

The testosterone level for a postmenopausal woman is about half the normal level for a healthy, nonpregnant woman. And a pregnant woman will have 3 to 4 times the amount of testosterone compared to a healthy, nonpregnant woman.

Free testosterone1

Men

50–210 pg/mL (174–729 pmol/L)

Women

1.0–8.5 pg/mL (3.5–29.5 pmol/L)

High values

  • In men, a high level of testosterone may be caused by cancer of the testicles camera.gif or adrenal glands camera.gif.
  • In boys younger than 10, a high level of testosterone may mean early (precocious) puberty, a tumor in the testicles, or an abnormal adrenal gland.
  • In women, a high level of testosterone may be caused by cancer of the ovaries or adrenal glands or by polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). In rare cases, the part of the ovary that makes testosterone can become very sensitive to luteinizing hormone (LH), causing very high testosterone levels. This condition is called hyperthecosis.

Low values

  • In men or boys who have gone through puberty, a low level of testosterone may be caused by a problem with the testicles, such as slow development of, an injury to, or a lack of testicles. It can also be caused from treatment with the female hormone estrogen, a problem with the pituitary gland camera.gif, or many long-term (chronic) illnesses.
  • A low testosterone level in men can also be caused by certain inherited diseases (such as Klinefelter syndrome or Down syndrome), liver disease (cirrhosis), or treatment for cancer of the prostate gland.
  • Long-term (chronic) alcohol use can cause a low testosterone level.
  • In women, a low level of testosterone may be caused by an underactive pituitary gland, Addison's disease, loss of ovary function through disease or surgery, and some medicines (such as corticosteroids or estrogen).
  • Being very overweight, having long-term (chronic) pain, or taking some pain medicines can lower the level of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). This also decreases total testosterone level.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 17, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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