As women age, many lose interest in making love and feel insecure, even though their blood levels of the male hormones testosterone and DHEAS are normal or low. A study from Australia in the medical journal Menopause shows that Androgel, a gel containing the male hormone, testosterone, improves well-being, mood, and sexual function in premenopausal women with low libido and low testosterone.
The bodies of all heathy women produce more of the male hormone, testosterone, than the female hormone, estrogen. Just like men, with aging women have a significant lowering of their blood testosterone levels, and this lowering of testosterone can cause depression and loss of muscle strength and sexual desire. Healthy women in their 40’s have approximately half the testosterone level as women in their 20’s.
A group of reproductive endocrinologists classified the symptoms of depression and loss of libido and muscle strength into one syndrome which they called Female Androgen Insufficiency Syndrome. This syndrome is most common at the menopause and in women who have had their ovaries removed, but it can occur any time in a woman’s life. The commonly-prescribed treatment of estrogen replacement to postmenopausal women and those who have had their ovaries removed often causes and worsens this syndrome.
The brain produces a hormone called FSH that causes the ovaries to produce the female hormone, estrogen. Estrogen circulates in the blood and goes to the brain, where it stops the brain from producing FSH. Without FSH, the ovaries stop making the male hormone, testosterone. Many studies show that giving estrogen to menopausal women may reduce their sex drive by lowering blood levels of testosterone. A woman’s sexual desire is driven by her body’s production of testosterone, not estrogen. Women who have had their ovaries removed suffer from the same symptoms because the ovaries produce most of the male hormones in a woman’s body. So women who suffer from Androgen Deficiency Syndrome caused by taking estrogen at menopause or by having had their ovaries removed surgically can feel much better when they take a combination of the two hormones produced by normal ovaries: estrogen and testosterone.
The adrenal glands, located near the kidneys, also produce a male hormones, called DHEAS. Women who have underactive adrenal glands have low blood levels of that hormone, and also suffer from Female Androgen Deficiency Syndrome. Their symptoms can be controlled by taking DHEA supplements.
If you are a woman who has even one of the following symptoms, ask your doctor to test you for lack of male hormones: depression, lack of motivation, loss of energy, lack of interest in making love, lack of joy in making love, muscle weakness, osteoporosis or weak bones, or vaginal pain during intercourse. Ask your doctor to draw blood tests for testosterone, the male hormone produced by the ovaries, and DHEAS, the male hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Even if your blood levels of the male hormones are normal, you could still try the testosterone cream, Androgel. Too much of the cream can cause masculinizing symptoms, but as long as you do not exceed 2.5 grams of Androgel each week, you are at low risk for growing hair on your face and body.
CAUTION: The long-term effects on women of taking male hormones (androgens) has not been adequately studied. If your doctor prescribes male hormones, you should not take them longer than a few months and your doctor should discuss all the potential side effects with you.
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