About Virilization



Virilization is the formation of masculine traits are exaggerated, usually in women, often as a result of the adrenal glands which produce excess androgens (testosterone and similar hormones).

Virilization due to excessive androgen production is usually caused by enlargement of the adrenal gland or tumor.

Symptoms include facial hair and excessive body, baldness, acne, deep voice, enlarged muscles, and increased sex drive.

Changes in body enables doctors to recognize virilization, and the dexamethasone suppression test can help doctors to make sure the cause.

Adrenal gland containing the tumor is removed surgically, although medications can sometimes reduce excessive hormone production.


Most common causes of virilization is an enlarged portion of the hormone production in the adrenal cortex (adrenal hyperlapsia). Sometimes the cause is a hormone producing tumor (adenoma or cancer) in glands. Sometimes, virilization occurs when the cancer is outside the adrenal glands produce androgens.

Athletes who use large amounts of androgens (anabolic steroids) to raise the large muscles can cause symptoms of virilization. Enlargement of cysts in the ovaries can cause virilization, but some cases are almost always mild. Sometimes abnormalities of the enzyme (protein) in the adrenal glands can produce virilization.


In virilization symptoms include excessive hair on face and body (hirsutism), alopecia, acne, deep voice, muscle enlargement, and increased sex drive. In women, the uterus shrinks, enlarged clitoris, breasts become smaller, and normal periods stop.


The combination body changes makes virilization relatively easy for doctors to recognize. A test can confirm androgen levels in the blood. If the levels are very high, dexamethasone pressure test can help determine if the problem comes from the adrenal glands and the problem is whether or adrenal adenoma hyperlapsia.

If the problem is hyperlapsia adrenalin, dexamethasone prevents the production of androgens from the adrenal gland. If the problem is an adenoma or cancer, dexamethasone reduces androgen production is only partially or entirely, the doctor may perform a computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) done to see the adrenal glands.


Androgen-producing adrenal adenoma and cancer is usually treated by removal of the adrenal gland containing the tumor surgically. For the adrenalin hyperlapsia, small amounts of corticosteroids, such as dexamethasone, usually reduces androgen production. Mild virilization due to ovarian cysts may require treatment. It can be treated with drugs that lower free testosterone levels, such as oral contraceptives or clogging effect on testosterone.