SHBG Levels and What They Mean

Sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) is a protein produced by your liver,and it binds certain hormones, including testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and estradiol (a type of estrogen). SHBG carries the above hormones throughout your body by your bloodstream. However, hormones that are in the bound state, as they are as SHBG, can’t be used by your cells, so this is how your body regulates hormone levels.

The reason that SHBG is so important to know about is that it controls the amount of testosterone that the tissue in your body can use.  Later in this article, we will go into more detail about what kind of problems can arise if there is too much or too little testosterone in your body – for both females and males.

Why are SHBG Levels Important to LearnAbout?

Now, what do your SHBG levels mean? Usually, if your SHBG levels are low, that means that your body has more hormones that can be used by your cells. So that means that when your SHBG levels are high, your body has fewer hormones that can be used.

The normal amount of SHBG levels for your body is dependent on your gender and age. However,other factors influence your SHBG levels and can cause them to be high or low. While the normal amount of SHBG levels are dependent on your age along with your gender, there is a scale that is used to figure out what levels are generally considered normal by doctors.

  • Males: The normal SHBG levels range from 10 to 57 nanomoles per liter of blood (nmol/L)
  • Nonpregnant Females: The normal range for SHBG levels are 18 to 144 nanomoles per liter of blood (nmol/L)

You’ll notice that the female range is dependent upon not being pregnant and this is because pregnancy usually increases the normal amount of SHBG levels in a female’s body – which is completely normal.

Another important thing to note is that SHBG levels are much higher in children of both sexes until they reach puberty. After they hit puberty, the SHBG levels will decrease to the normal levels. For males, this will happen rather quickly whereas for females it will take a little bit more time.

What do the SHBG Levels Mean?

SHBG levels are mainly tested if your healthcare provider believes that you have abnormal testosterone levels. By testing your SHBG levels, they can help diagnose various conditions and diseases that might be hard to find otherwise (i.e., hypogonadism and androgen deficiency).

SHBG levels, as mentioned before, are dependent on your age, gender, health history, and other biological factors. In this next section, we will go over some of the general diagnoses’ and diseases that might be discovered from testing your SHBG levels.

Underactive Thyroid

In general:

  • Low levels of SHBG can be related to:
    • Type 2 diabetes
    • Hypothyroidism – “Underactive Thyroid”
    • Obesity
  • High levels of SHBG can be related to:
    • HIV
    • Hyperthyroidism – “Overactive Thyroid”
    • Hepatitis

These are results that both men and females can have. All of them are serious conditions that can cause even more health problems later on in your life. By having your SHBG levels tested, you might be able to catch these diagnoses’ early on and be able to control the symptoms and live a regular life.

However, some results can be determined based on your gender.

Too much testosterone in men can mean:

  • Fluid retention – this is the excessive buildup of fluid in your circulatory system, body tissues, and cavities in your body; this can cause stiff joints and skin discoloration
  • Low sperm count – Having too many hormones in your body can have a negative effect on your body’s ability to produce sperm; thus, causing you not to be able to produce as much sperm as you should be
  • Increased appetite and weight gain
  • Increased muscle mass – testosterone is often used by your body to create muscle mass. By having too much of the hormone in your body, you might be producing too much muscle mass

Too much estrogen in men can mean:

  • Erectile dysfunction (ED) – You might find that you have trouble maintaining a firm erection or an erection during sexual activities
  • Larger breast tissue – You might find that having too much estrogen in your body makes it so that you have more breast tissue than you normally This can make it seem like you have larger breasts than if you had normal levels

For women, too much testosterone can mean:

  • Weight gain
  • Excessive facial and body hair
  • Menstrual changes

For women, too much estrogen can mean:

  • Irregular periods
  • Bloating
  • Breast tenderness

By getting your SHBG levels tested, and knowing what irregular levels can mean, you’ll be able to figure out why you might not be feeling very well, why you may be infertile, or why your body isn’t acting as it should be.

Final Thoughts

SHBG levels are important to understanding because irregular levels can cause a lot of problems with your body and reproductive organs. By having your levels tested, you can figure out so much about your body and if you might have some problems that might not have been found out without the test.

It’s not crucial for you to run out and have your SHBG levels tested right now, however,by understandingwhat high/low levels of SHBG can do to your body, it can help you in the long run. Plus, by having these levels tested, there might be things that you can do to combat the diagnosis and help you feel better in the long run.

SHBG is vital for your body to function, by knowing what it is and why it’s tested will allow you to be more aware of your body and unusual changes that might be scary. Knowing that you can get your SHBG levels tested to find out what might be wrong can save you a lot of troubling thoughts and time. So, if you think that you might have unusual levels of SHBG, find a doctor that will listen to your concerns and test your levels for you.

Laura Day
 

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