Virilization is when a female develops male sex characteristics, or a newborn boy has increased male characteristics at birth.
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)
Signs of virilization in a female may include:
- Deepening of the voice
- Facial hair
- Increase in body hair
- Male-pattern baldness
- Swelling of the clitoris
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
Stewart PM. The adrenal cortex. In: Kronenberg HM, Shlomo M, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;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.
Endocrine Society. Androgen therapy in women: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2006;91(10):2697-3716.
Parker KL. Sexual Differentiation. In: Griffin JE, Ojeda SR. Textbook of Endocrine Physiology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 2004:167-185.
Reviewed By: Ari S. Eckman, MD, Chief, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Trinitas Regional Medical Center, Elizabeth, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.