Testosterone Replacement Therapy for Women
Testosterone is a hormone commonly associated with men, but women also produce small amounts of testosterone. Like estrogen, testosterone production decreases during menopause. During this time gynecologists sometimes recommend testosterone replacement therapy.
The Role of Testosterone in Women
In women, the ovaries and adrenal glands produce small amounts of testosterone. Normally, testosterone blood levels peak between the ages of 20 to 30 and gradually decrease with age. Women who have undergone chemotherapy, radiation or surgical removal of the ovaries can experience an abrupt drop or cessation of testosterone production.
Even small amounts of the hormone play a role in a woman’s health and wellbeing. An important function of testosterone is to boost sex drive and reduce symptoms of sexual dysfunction such as low arousal and lack of sexual satisfaction. Testosterone also enhances nipple and clitoral sensitivity.
The hormone can impact a woman’s health in other ways, too. Too much testosterone can lead to infertility, thinning scalp hair, increased facial hair and acne, while symptoms of a low testosterone level may be less obvious and harder to recognize. In addition to decreased sexual desire, low testosterone levels can cause mood swings and fatigue.
Benefits of Testosterone Therapy
Since testosterone is known as a male hormone, some women are hesitant to begin testosterone therapy, however, those who do often experience positive results.
When administered properly and at the correct dosage, testosterone can renew a woman’s sexual interest and enjoyment. The hormone can also improve vaginal dryness, menopausal hot flashes, incontinence and other urinary symptoms, reduce migraine or menstrual headaches, lessen anxiety, and boost concentration and energy levels.
Testosterone is also important to bone, muscle and skin health. It enables the body to better maintain lean muscle mass, reduces “bad” cholesterol and fat levels, improves HDL levels and provides other cardiovascular benefits.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy
Testosterone therapy options include creams, gels, patches, pills, or implantable pellets. Topical (skin) therapies must be applied daily, but testosterone pellets are implanted under the skin and release a steady flow of the hormone over a 3 to 4 month period.
Pellet insertion is done in the office under sterile conditions. The skin is prepped and numbed, and the pellets are placed through a tiny incision near the hip or in the lower abdomen. Afterwards, a Steri-strip and a small gauze bandage are placed over the insertion site and pressure is applied for a few minutes.
Like any medication, hormone therapy should only be prescribed and administered by a qualified physician.