Testosterone is not only a male hormone. High testosterone levels in women often get more attention than low testosterone. Abnormal levels of the hormone, whether too high or too low, can have adverse health effects.
Little research was done about this condition until recently because it shares symptoms with many other conditions. To complicate matters further, it is only recently that doctors could test testosterone levels for women of different ages and determine which levels of testosterone can be considered high, medium or low. So it helps to understand why women need testosterone.
The role of testosterone in women
Testosterone plays a role in the formation of healthy bones. Osteoporosis has been linked to testosterone deficiency in women. Women experiencing menopause have a higher chance of suffering from bone loss because their bodies produce lower levels of testosterone at this stage.
Low libido has also been linked to low testosterone levels in women. Again, this is prevalent for women approaching menopause. Testosterone patches have improved sex drive in women. Other factors, some psychological, can also cause low libido. Testosterone has also been linked to the ability of women’s bodies to manage pain. It also plays a role in preserving cognitive health.
Signs of testosterone deficiency
Testosterone deficiency can manifest itself in different ways and levels of severity depending on emotional well-being and age. The most recognizable symptoms include;
- Sleep problems.
Women who suffer from disrupted sleep could suffer from testosterone deficiency. This can include sleep apnea, insomnia, and abnormal sleep patterns. Researchers suspect that low testosterone can lead to other hormone imbalances which affect sleep.
- Low sex drive.
Low libido and painful intercourse are associated with testosterone deficiency. Women with low testosterone also suffer from sudden sexual changes and a low desire for intimacy. Sometimes, the low libido is accompanied by an inability to orgasm. This contributes to loss of interest in intimacy.
Low energy levels can point to low testosterone level. The tired feeling can start from the morning, with difficulty getting out of bed. In milder forms, the fatigue becomes apparent after physical activities that would not exhaust you under normal circumstances. The feeling of exhaustion does not go away even after sufficient sleep.
Low testosterone levels are often blamed for midlife weight gain in women. For women in their 30s, the weight gain can be sudden. It is often accompanied by other physiological changes like loss of muscle which is replaced by more body fat. The body might take the shape of an apple gradually. People associate this with normal midlife body changes when it could be a result of low testosterone. In such a case, these changes are reversible.
This symptom sets in later than the rest because it is harder to discern in the early stages. When the bones are not strong enough, women become more susceptible to fractures and broken bones.
- Psychiatric symptoms.
Mood swings and feeling low most of the time can be a result of androgen deficiency. When this happens, many think it is a result of menopause or other common conditions. While many other factors can cause depression, testosterone deficiency is one of them. Accompanying symptoms can include loss of interest in favorite activities and a loss of mental focus. Anxiety is another possible result of low testosterone levels. In rare cases, it can escalate to panic attacks.
- Hair loss.
Testosterone contributes to the growth of body hair. Loss of hair is not evident for women who shave regularly, but it manifests gradually. Patchy hair cover can signify low testosterone levels.
Causes of low testosterone
Female testosterone deficiency is often caused by decreased production of the hormone by the ovary. Testosterone is produced by:
- Adrenal glands
- Peripheral tissues
The ovary is the major source. It can reduce production as menopause approaches. A problem with the adrenal glands and other peripheral tissues can also contribute to the deficiency. Other causes include certain diseases and conditions. Also, some types of medication can affect the production of testosterone in the body.
How to keep testosterone levels normal
As seen above, low testosterone in women can lead to many health problems. On the other hand, high testosterone levels are harmful too. So a balance is important. Diagnosis should be done by a doctor to find out whether there is testosterone deficiency. Once the condition is confirmed, the doctor can implement strict testosterone therapy. Never go for over the counter prescriptions based on intuition. Use expert advice. Unsupervised dosage can lead to high testosterone levels. This is a very harmful condition to be avoided at all costs.
During testosterone therapy, the doctor often monitors the testosterone levels to ensure they are not rising above the normal levels required for women. The levels of testosterone supplements recommended are often minimal, that is why strict dosage and observation is necessary.
Treatment of testosterone deficiency in women
There’s no standard treatment for testosterone deficiency in women. Each case is assessed depending on the cause of the condition. For instance, women who had their ovaries removed surgically may get different treatment options from those who have a functioning ovary as it produces most of the testosterone.
Once the doctor has diagnosed the problem, they can prescribe various treatments for testosterone deficiency in female including:
- Testosterone therapy
It can be administered in various ways. These include injections, gels, and pellets. All these increase testosterone levels.
- Precursor hormones
One way medics avoid giving testosterone directly is by prescribing DHEA which are hormones that lead to a higher production of testosterone. This is a new method, so its use is not widespread.
The reasoning behind this form of treatment is to reduce overdosing patients on testosterone. Consequently, this form of treatment takes longer before the results become visible. While the drugs are available in pharmacies and supermarkets, they should be taken under strict instructions and supervision by doctors.
Testosterone deficiency in women is prevalent in women from 30s to old age. It might manifest later than their 50s or in the early thirties. Since the symptoms are not easily distinguishable from other ailments, always consult a physician.