In women, testosterone therapy is generally prescribed to deal with certain gynecological and sexual disorders. However, the safety of such a treatment in women is controversial. The current article enlists the possible side effects with respect to the same.
Testosterone is a steroid hormone that is secreted by testicles in males and also in small amounts by ovaries and adrenal glands in females. Although it belongs to the class of androgens, it plays a vital role in maintaining the reproductive health in women, since it serves as a precursor for synthesis of estrogens, the female sex hormones.
The production of testosterone in women is affected by aging, and is highest at the age of 20 years. The production then gradually decreases with age, and the levels of testosterone decrease to half, by the age of 40 years. In addition to aging, lowered production of testosterone may occur due to lowered function of adrenal glands and ovaries, and surgical menopause. The symptoms arising due to such deficiency include sadness, depression, irritability, bone loss, decreased muscle strength, decreased libido, and hot flashes.
Testosterone therapy is being advocated for post-menopausal women, to maintain their hormonal balance, deal with sexual disorders and boost their sexual life. It may be prescribed as a pill, cream, gel or as injections. The long-term effects of the therapy have not yet been clearly evaluated, especially with respect to the risk of breast cancer, and heart problems. Many aspects pertaining to its safety are yet to be investigated, and hence such a therapy for women has not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Some of the side effects associated with a high dosage of testosterone in women are as given below:
Physical and Physiological:
- Increased acne
- Increased facial hair
- Alopecia (balding)
- Deepening of voice
- Hepatotoxicity, and other liver problems
- Clitoromegaly (abnormal enlargement of clitoris)
- Abnormal muscle growth
- Breast regression
- Mood swings
- Reduced self-esteem
- Impulsive aggression
Other Adverse Effects:
- Testosterone therapy is not advisable for pregnant women, since it has been shown to be fatal for the developing fetus.
- The level of testosterone in blood influences the estrogen levels, which is associated with the risk of breast cancer. This aspect is yet to be investigated in detail.
- Moreover, the effect of testosterone therapy on insulin levels is not yet precisely known, and hence diabetics are advised to refrain from such a therapy.
- Testosterone is known to interact with anticoagulants and blood-thinning medications, thereby increasing the risk of bleeding.
- The use of cortico-steroids influences the effectiveness of testosterone therapy and vice versa.
- Administration of testosterone in combination with cyclosporine, an immuno-suppressant, poses a risk of liver damage.
Testosterone is vital for the physical and mental well-being of women, and its deficiency can cause debilitating effects on a woman’s life. However, the side effects of this therapy also need to be evaluated with respect to the hormonal levels and issues pertaining to each individual case.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.