Testosterone therapy is increasingly used to treat symptoms of hormone deficiency in pre and postmenopausal women. Testosterone is essential for physical and mental health in women as well as men. Although frequently thought of to increase sex drive, testosterone’s role in sexual function is only a small part of its physiologic effect in women. Receptors for testosterone are located in almost all tissues including the breast, heart, blood vessels, gastrointestinal tract, lung, brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves, bladder, uterus, ovaries, endocrine glands, vagina, skin, bone, bone marrow, muscle and fat.
Testosterone declines gradually with age in both sexes. Pre and post-menopausal women, and aging men, may experience symptoms of testosterone deficiency including anxiety, irritability, depression, lack of well being, physical fatigue, bone loss, muscle loss, memory loss, insomnia, hot flashes, rheumatoid complaints, pain, breast pain, urinary complaints, incontinence and sexual dysfunction. According to Rebecca Glaser, MD and Constantine Dimitrakakis, MD, PhD: testosterone is not masculinizing and does not increase aggression or cause hoarseness; testosterone does increase scalp hair growth, is mood stabilizing, and is cardiac and breast protective.
A source of confusion concerning the safety of testosterone therapy in both men and women is the extrapolation of adverse events from high doses of oral and injectable synthetic anabolic steroids to therapy using the bio-identical form of testosterone in doses that simply restore normal physiologic levels. Bio-identical testosterone is the same substance that is naturally produced by the human body. In England and Australia, testosterone is licensed and has been used in women for over 60 years. In the United States and Canada, compounding pharmacies can customize testosterone in doses that are appropriate for women.