Navigate Up

Women's Center - A-Z Index

#
Y

Print This Page

Virilization

Virilization is a condition in which a female develops male sex characteristics, or a newborn boy has increased male characteristics at birth.

Information

Virilization may be caused by:

  • Excess testosterone production
  • Use of anabolic steroids

In newborn girls, the condition may be caused by:

  • Certain medications taken by the mother during pregnancy
  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia in the baby or her mother
  • Other medical conditions in the mother (such as tumors of the ovaries or adrenal glands that release male hormones)

In girls who are going through puberty, the condition may be caused by:

  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Certain medications or anabolic steroids
  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
  • Tumors of the ovaries or adrenal glands that release male hormones

In adult women, the condition may be caused by:

  • Certain medications or anabolic steroids
  • Tumors of the ovaries or adrenal glands that release male hormones

Signs of virilization in a female often depend on the level of testosterone in the body.

       Low level:

  • Thick, dark facial hair in the beard or mustache area
  • Increase in body hair
  • Oily skin or acne
  • Irregular menstrual periods

       Moderate level:

  • Male-pattern baldness
  • Loss of female fat distribution
  • Decreased breast size

       High level:

  • Enlargement of the clitoris
  • Deepening of the voice
  • Male muscle pattern

Tests may include:

  • Blood tests to detect excess testosterone in females
  • CT scan, MRI, or ultrasound to rule out tumors of the ovaries and adrenal glands

References

Bright TM. Hirsutism and virilization. In: McDermott MT, ed. Endocrine Secrets. 6th ed. Phildelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 48.

Stewart PM. The adrenal cortex. In: Kronenberg HM, Shlomo M, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2008:chap 14.

Styne DM, Grumbach MM. Puberty: ontogeny, neuroendocrinology, physiology, and disorders. In: In: Kronenberg HM, Shlomo M, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2008:chap 24.

Updated: 5/24/2013

Brent Wisse, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Nutrition, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com