5 Things to Know About Testosterone Therapy in Women

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    What We Know About Testosterone Therapy for Women
    You may have heard about testosterone therapy for women to boost sex drive. Testosterone is a hormone people associate with men, but women have it too. In both sexes, the level declines as we get older. Testosterone therapy has been used for decades to address low sex drive in women, but there is much that is not known about it, and its safety and effectiveness is a matter of debate. Here’s what to know about taking the “male” hormone for sexual dysfunction if you are a woman.

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    1. There are different forms of testosterone therapy.
    Only some doctors will prescribe testosterone for low sex drive in women. They inject it into a muscle or insert a small pellet containing the hormone under the skin. There are also testosterone pills, skin patches, gels, creams, sprays, and drops you put under your tongue. Testosterone therapy for women for low sex drive is not FDA-approved, so doctors use it “off-label,” which means it is not intended for the purpose. No over-the-counter preparation contains testosterone, which is a controlled substance. Claims that supplements boost testosterone are unproven, the manufacturing is not regulated, and the dosage for women has not been determined.

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    2. Testosterone therapy may reduce menopause symptoms.
    Male hormones are FDA-approved only for menopausal women with moderate to severe hot flashes and night sweats when estrogen therapy did not work. Some doctors will prescribe testosterone after a hysterectomy if you have reduced sex drive, depression and fatigue, when estrogen therapy alone hasn't worked. Some studies report improvement in sexual desire, arousal, and sexual satisfaction according to the participants; other studies showed little or no effect. In most of these studies, the women also received estrogen.
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    3. Testosterone therapy may be linked to serious medical conditions.
    There has been concern that testosterone therapy might be linked to breast or uterine cancer as well as heart and liver disease. In 2014, the FDA issued a warning about testosterone use in women and an increased number of heart attacks. The lack of long-term, large studies means there is much we don’t know about the safety record for testosterone therapy in women.

    Testosterone therapy can come with unwanted side effects, including acne, balding, deepening of the voice, excessive hair growth, and enlargement of the clitoris. These side effects are uncommon, however, when women receive a low dose.
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    4. Alternatives to testosterone therapy for low sex drive in women are FDA approved.
    There are two FDA-approved medications for low sex drive in women. Vyleesi (bremelanotide) is an injection for premenopausal women that you use before sex. Addyi (flibanserin) was originally developed to treat depression. Flibanserin affects certain chemicals in the brain tied to libido. Studies of both drugs report they are only slightly more effective or no more effective than a placebo. Some women try DHEA, available as an over-the-counter supplement or gel. DHEA is a substance our bodies make that’s linked to male and female sex hormones, but there is no evidence it is effective in treating low sex drive.

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    5. Addressing possible underlying reasons for sexual dysfunction may improve libido.
    If you are concerned about a lack of sex drive, consider counseling and therapy, which may help you discover the reasons behind low libido and help you address them. Some prescription drugs can lower your sex drive. Talk with your provider to see if your medicine may be a contributing factor. If sex is painful, there are prescription medicines and over-the-counter products that may alleviate the problem. Some women find testosterone therapy effective, but talk with your doctor so that you understand the benefits, risks and side effects.

What to Know About Testosterone Therapy to Boost Sex Drive in Women

About The Author

Nancy LeBrun is an Emmy- and Peabody award-winning writer and producer who has been writing about health and wellness for more than five years. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the American Society of Journalists and Authors.
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  9. FDA approves new treatment for hypoactive sexual desire disorder in premenopausal women. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-new-treatment-hypoactive-sexual-desire-disorder-premenopausal-women
  10. Vyleesi Fact Sheet. National Women’s Health Network. https://www.nwhn.org/vyleesi-fact-sheet/

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Last Review Date: 2020 Jul 10
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