Many people think of testosterone as a male sex hormone, but women produce it too. In fact, women produce 3 times more testosterone than the female sex hormone oestrogen before
Female testosterone levels gradually decline as we get older and it's not fully known if this is just due to age or if due to menopause.
Surgical removal of ovaries (oophorectomy), causes testosterone levels to become lower quickly as our ovaries produce most of the testosterone in our bodies.
Testosterone is a biologically active hormone, and we have receptors for testosterone all over our bodies. Testosterone has a critical role in the brain as well as other organs of the body.
Symptoms of low levels of testosterone in women can include:
- Low sex drive (libido)
- Less pleasurable sex (the ability to get aroused and have an orgasm)
- Lack of energy
- Finding it hard to concentrate
Women with low levels of testosterone often describe a ‘lack of joy’ or feeling like they have cotton
wool in their brain, or a lead weight attached to their bodies. Sadly, women are conditioned to
normalise these feeling as they often come around the same time as other stresses such as looking
after elderly parents, emptying nesting and work or financial stresses.
Currently testosterone treatment for women is not licensed in the UK. This means there is not a
licence for its use but does NOT mean it is unsafe. It can, however, be prescribed ‘off-licence’.
Testosterone replacement for men is licensed and I think it is quite scandalous that men are allowed
to have their hormones back, but women are not. Hopefully, this will change in the near future.
Women who are lucky enough to be prescribed testosterone on the NHS will be offered a product
designed for men ie packaged at a dose suitable for men which is 10 x higher than women need.
Privately women may be offered Androfeme1 which is licensed for and designed for women. It
comes with a syringe for measuring the correct dose and is applied to the skin daily.
NICE ( National Institute for Clinical Excellence) guidelines state that testosterone replacement can
be considered for perimenopausal and menopausal women who have reduced sexual desire or low
libido but anecdotally, many women who take testosterone in addition to their HRT notice that
other symptoms including mood, energy and concentration also improve.
Recently researchers at Newson Health studied data from 905 women aged 45 and over taking
testosterone . Results showed that this treatment was associated with an overall 37% improvement
in sexual function scores, 47% improvement in mood related symptoms, 45% improvement in
symptoms associated with anxiety , 35% improved sleep, 34% improved concentration, 32%
improved energy and 24% improved memory.
These scores cannot be ignored! We definitely need more studies on the use of testosterone in
women but in the meantime women who continue to have symptoms despite being on standard
HRT should be able to access an informed discussion with her prescriber to see if testosterone may
be beneficial for her.
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