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How effective is testosterone for low sex drive in women?

Jennifer R Berman, MD, is assistant professor of urology and director of the Female Sexual Medicine Center at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. She earned her Master of Science degree from ...

Testosterone and your low sex drive

Can a boost of hormones -- male sex hormones, no less -- help get your libido back on track? Here, a doctor tells you about testosterone treatment for a lowered sex drive.

Your question:
I have heard about taking testosterone to improve sex drive. What are the side effects of testosterone therapy and how effective is it?

 

The expert answers:
Testosterone therapy is a promising treatment for women with low libido, but it's only one piece of a larger puzzle. When treating a patient with broad sexual complaints or specifically low libido, all facets of her physiology (and psychology) must be taken into account.

It's important to manage her other hormone levels, as well as arousal issues which may arise due to decreased genital blood flow, damage to the part of her nervous system that controls the sexual response, atrophied pelvic support and musculature, or other diseases or medications that my confound her sexual quality of life.

Testosterone is very important, though. As a woman ages, her testosterone levels steadily decrease. So it makes sense that boosting her testosterone to the level she had when she was younger will also restore the libido and sense of well-being she had at that time.

Testosterone hasn't yet been FDA approved for use in women (although it has been in men) with low libido. Many physicians and market researchers are, however, speculating that transdermal testosterone patch will be available by prescription for use in women with low sex drive in the near future.

It should be noted, however, that physicians have been prescribing testosterone for use in women for many years now -- and the evidence (both in research journals and anecdotally) suggests that it is a safe and effective treatment for women. The evidence to date shows a positive connection between testosterone supplementation and an increased level of sexual desire, energy and general well-being in women.

And because testosterone is a naturally occurring hormone, if administered under the supervision of a doctor, the risks and side-effects of supplementation are generally low or non-existent. As with many treatments, doctor supervision is necessary.

If testosterone is used without consistent oversight from a physician, physiological levels may rise to unsafe concentrations and then side-effects such as weight gain, acne, oily skin, excess body hair or other masculine effects may occur.

Through proper medical management, testosterone therapy is safe and effective for treatment of low libido in women.

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