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Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) blood test

Definition

The follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) blood test measures the level of FSH in blood. FSH is a hormone released by the pituitary gland, located on the underside of the brain.

Alternative Names

Follicle stimulating hormone

How the Test is Performed

A blood sample is needed.

How to Prepare for the Test

If you are a woman of childbearing age, your health care provider may want you to have the test done on certain days of your menstrual cycle.

How the Test will Feel

When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain. Others feel only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing or a slight bruise. These soon go away.

Why the Test is Performed

In women, FSH helps manage a women’s cycle and stimulates the ovaries to produce eggs. The test is used to help diagnose or evaluate:

In men, FSH stimulates production of sperm. The test is used to help diagnose or evaluate:

  • Problems becoming pregnant, or infertility
  • Men who do not have testicles or whose testicles are under-developed

In children, FSH is involved with the development of sexual features. The test is ordered for children:

  • Who develop sexual features at a very young age
  • Who are delayed in starting puberty

Normal Results

Normal FSH level will differ depending on a person's age and gender.

  • Male
    • Before puberty: 0 - 5.0 mIU/ml
    • During puberty: 0.3 - 10.0 mIU/ml
    • Adult: 1.5 - 12.4 mIU/ml
  • Female:
    • Before puberty: 0 - 4.0 mIU/ml
    • During puberty: 0.3 - 10.0 mIU/ml
    • Women who are still menstruating: 4.7 - 21.5 mIU/ml
    • After menopause: 25.8 - 134.8 mIU/ml

mIU/ml = milli international units per milliliter

Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some labs use different measurements or test different samples. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test result.

What Abnormal Results Mean

High FSH levels in women may be present:

  • During or after menopause, including premature menopause
  • When receiving hormone therapy
  • Due to certain types of tumor in the pituitary gland
  • Due to Turner syndrome

Low FSH levels in women may be present due to:

  • Being very underweight or having had recent rapid weight loss
  • Not producing eggs (not ovulating)
  • Parts of the brain (the pituitary gland or hypothalamus) not producing normal amounts of some or all of its hormones
  • Pregnancy

High FSH levels in men may mean the testicles are not functioning correctly due to:

  • Advancing age (male menopause)
  • Damage to testicles caused by alcohol abuse, chemotherapy, or radiation
  • Problems with genes, such as Klinefelter syndrome
  • Treatment with hormones
  • Certain tumors in the pituitary gland

Low FSH levels in men may mean parts of the brain (the pituitary gland or hypothalamus) do not produce normal amounts of some or all of its hormones.

High FSH levels in boys or girls may mean that puberty is about to start.

Risks

Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight but may include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fainting or feeling light-headed
  • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)

References

Borawski D, Bluth MH. Reproductive function and pregnancy. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 25.

Gruber HA, Farag AF. Evaluation of endocrine function. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 24.

Melmed S, Kleinberg D, Ho K. Pituitary physiology and diagnostic evaluation. In: Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, Kronenberg HM, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 8.


Review Date: 9/30/2013
Reviewed By: Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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