Ten Common Myths About Testosterone Treatment For Women
There’s a growing interest in testosterone hormone replacement for treating symptoms related to aging. You’ve probably seen advertisements of virile, muscle bound men in their 60’s and 70’s. Along with the growing interest there’s also a growing amount of information. But much of it is anecdotal stories, misleading data and flat out, unproven myths. Especially as it relates to testosterone replacement therapy for women.
The fact is that medically administered, testosterone therapy is also used to successfully treat symptoms of hormone deficiency in pre and postmenopausal women. And two physicians—Dr. Rebecca Glaser and Dr. Constantine Dimitrakakis—are dispelling the misinformation about it through scientific research.
Dr. Glaser and Dr. Dimitrakakis focus on subcutaneously implanted, bio-identical hormones (human identical molecule) and not oral, synthetic androgens or anabolic steroids.
With that in mind, here are the 10 myths of testosterone replacement therapy for women.
Myth #1: Testosterone is a “male” hormone
Although men have a higher circulating level of testosterone than women, from a biological perspective, men and women are genetically similar. Both sexes include functional estrogen and androgen (testosterone) receptors. And while estrogen is popularly considered the primary female hormone, throughout a woman’s lifespan, testosterone is actually the most abundant, biologically active hormone with significantly higher levels than estradiol. And as early as 1937, testosterone therapy was reported to effectively treat symptoms of the menopause.
Myth #2: Testosterone’s only role in women is sex drive and libido
There’s a lot of hype about testosterone’s role in sexual function. But in reality, it’s a fraction of the overall physiologic effect testosterone plays in women. That’s because testosterone governs the health of almost all tissues including the breast, heart, blood vessels, gastrointestinal tract, lung, brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves, bladder, uterus, ovaries, endocrine glands, vaginal tissue, skin, bone, bone marrow, synovium, muscle and adipose tissue.
The function of these tissues declines as testosterone declines. The result of this deficiency in both men and women includes dysphoric mood (anxiety, irritability, depression), lack of well-being, physical fatigue, bone loss, muscle loss, changes in cognition, memory loss, insomnia, hot flashes, rheumatoid complaints, pain, breast pain, urinary complaints, incontinence as well as sexual dysfunction. And just like for men, these symptoms are successfully treated in women through testosterone therapy.
Myth #3: Testosterone masculinizes females
Testosterone therapy has been safely and successfully administered in women for over 76 years. Rather than decrease a woman’s femininity it increases it. Testosterone stimulates ovulation, increases fertility and safely treats the nausea of early pregnancy without adverse effects.
Sure, large doses of supra-pharmacological synthetic testosterone are used to treat female to male transgender patients to increase male traits like body hair. But this requires high doses over an extended period of time. Even then, true masculinization is still not possible. And these effects are reversible by simply lowering the dosage.
Myth #4: Testosterone causes hoarseness and voice changes
Hoarseness is most commonly caused by inflammation due to allergies, infectious or chemical laryngitis, reflux esophagitis, voice over-use, mucosal tears, medications and vocal cord polyps. Testosterone possesses anti-inflammatory properties. There is no evidence that testosterone causes hoarseness and there is no physiological mechanism that allows testosterone to do so.
Although a few anecdotal case reports and small questionnaire studies have reported an association between 400 and 800 mg/d of danazol and self-reported, subjective voice ‘changes’ an objective study demonstrated the opposite.
Twenty-four patients received 600 mg of danazol (synthetic testosterone) therapy daily and were studied for 3 and 6 months. There were no vocal changes that could be attributed to the androgenic properties of danazol. These conclusions are consistent with a one year study examining voice changes on pharmaco-logic doses of subcutaneous testosterone implant therapy in women by Glaser and Dimitrakakis.