Sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) is a protein situated in the liver. It is responsible for hormone-binding like testosterone ( male sexual hormone), dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and estradiol (an estrogen). SHBG is responsible for transferring the hormones all over the bloodstream. Hormones in this bound state are not for your bodies and the cells to be absorbed. They are rather used for the regulation of hormones. So, when the SHBG levels are low, the body will have abundant unbound sex hormones to be used. When the SHBG levels are high, there aren’t many free sex hormones lying around for the usage.

For the SHBH levels to be healthy, age and gender play a prominent role; however, there are other factors as well that influence the SHBG levels to shoot or dip.

Read this blog to learn more about the SHBG levels and in case you need to go to a doctor and get tested. So, what would constitute normal levels of SHBG in an adult: the males must have 10 to 57 nanomoles per litre (nmol/L), whereas not-pregnant females should be in the range of 18 to 144 nmol/L. Men tend to have lower levels of SHBG when compared to women, but the levels may soar with age as the testosterone rate will tend to drop. In females, pregnancy may result in high SHBG levels. It would return to the normal range once they have delivered kids. It is advisable to remember that the test results are different from one lab to another.

In case, the SHBG levels are not proper, would it have any symptoms?

Lower the SHBG levels, more free-flowing sex hormones to be used by the body. In males, extra free testosterone could mean retention of fluid, pimples, constant hungry state, weight gain, and more muscle mass, and fluctuation in moods. If there is a lot of estrogen in men, this could lead to erectile dysfunction, defined breast tissue. Whereas in women, abnormal testosterone levels could hint at weight issues, facial and body hair, acne on the body, mood shifts, and menstruation instability. A lot of estrogens persists, this means irregularity in periods, unstable mood, bloating, and tender breasts. People who exhibit the following, are prone to have low SHBG levels: obesity, resistance to insulin that is in type 2 diabetes, hypothyroidism, cushing disease, fatty liver even if the person doesn’t consume alcohol, acromegaly – excess growth hormone in adults.

The male and female anatomy differ when it comes to SHBG levels as they are higher before puberty than in adulthood, postpuberty the SHBG levels start diminishing. They only become stable when adulthood is achieved. As a man starts the ageing process, the SHBG levels start shooting. This could also be associated with the high testosterone level during the onset of puberty and low levels as the man begins ageing. With females, it is not conclusive how ageing and menopause impacts SHBG levels. In women, it’s less clear how ageing and menopause affect SHBG levels. Women who have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) could also have low SHBG levels, a resistance to insulin, weight gain, and androgen produce in excess.

The research also indicates that the low SHBG levels in adult women may be a parameter to diagnose type 2 diabetes. If SHBG levels are low, the obesity comes unannounced.

How to trace if SHBG levels are abnormal?

SHBG tests don’t usually come under the routine checks. Your doctor has to order it after studying your symptoms that are: hypogonadism, or any other type androgen deficiency that show low SHBG levels, the total testosterone test doesn’t give a satisfactory picture, and also to understand why the testosterone or estrogen levels are at a high or a low level.

In males, the test reports can help in determining the cause behind infertility, low sex drive, sexual health and erectile dysfunction. While, in females, it can help conclude the reason behind missed or irregular periods, infertility, pimples, a lot of facial and body hair.

For the test, some blood is extracted from your vein via injection by inserting the needle in the arm. The test will see the concentration of SHBG level in the blood. The blood sample is then sent to the laboratory, and doctors receive the test reports.

Medically reviewed by Rishabh Verma, RP

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