Pathophysiological effects of androgens on the female vascular system

Biol Sex Differ. 2020 Jul 29;11(1):45. doi: 10.1186/s13293-020-00323-6.


Sex hormones and their respective receptors affect vascular function differently in men and women, so it is reasonable to assume they play a role in the sex differences in cardiovascular disease states. This review focuses on how the effects of testosterone on arterial vessels impact the female vasculature. In women with androgen-excess polycystic ovary syndrome, and in transgender men, testosterone exposure is associated with high blood pressure, endothelial dysfunction, and dyslipidemia. These relationships suggest that androgens may exert pathophysiological effects on the female vasculature, and these effects on the female vasculature appear to be independent from other co-morbidities of cardiovascular disease. There is evidence that the engagement of androgens with androgen receptor induces detrimental outcomes in the female cardiovascular system, thereby representing a potential causative link with sex differences and cardiovascular regulation. Gender affirming hormone therapy is the primary medical intervention sought by transgender people to reduce the characteristics of their natal sex and induce those of their desired sex. Transgender men, and women with androgen-excess polycystic ovary syndrome both represent patient groups that experience chronic hyperandrogenism and thus lifelong exposure to significant medical risk. The study of testosterone effects on the female vasculature is relatively new, and a complex picture has begun to emerge. Long-term research in this area is needed for the development of more consistent models and controlled experimental designs that will provide insights into the impact of endogenous androgen concentrations, testosterone doses for hormone therapy, and specific hormone types on function of the female cardiovascular system.

Keywords: Blood pressure; Endothelial function; Testosterone; Trans men; Transgender.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / adverse effects*
  • Androgens / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / pathology
  • Testosterone / adverse effects*
  • Transgender Persons


  • Androgens
  • Testosterone