Women who experience sexual dysfunction after menopause may feel more desire and pleasure when they use testosterone treatments, a recent study suggests.
Researchers reviewed data from 36 trials with 8.480 participants, most of whom had already gone through menopause. The trials randomly assigned some women to use testosterone treatment and other to take a placebo or an alternative hormone treatment like estrogen alone or in combination with progesterone.
Women who use testosterone experienced significantly increased sexual function and had satisfying sex more often that their counterparts who didn’t get this therapy, the study found. Testosterone caused spikes in desire, arousal, orgasm and responsiveness as well as a decrease in distress related to sexual function.
“Testosterone acts directly in the brain and influences sexual functioning at a central level (sexual desire, fantasy, thoughts, etc.) and it also increases blood flow to the genitalia so women are more likely to feel sensation of arousal and orgasm”, said Susan Davis, senior author of the study and a researcher at Monash University in Australia.
Although best known as a male hormone, testosterone is import for female sexual health, contributing to libido and orgasm as well as helping to maintain normal metabolic function, muscle strength, cognitive function and mood, researchers note in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinolgy.
Testosterone levels decline naturally over a women’s lifespan and can also drop sharply following surgically-induced menopause. Prior research has suggested that testosterone therapy can improve sexual function in women, but the available formulations have been designed for men and evidence for their safety or for adverse side-effects in women is scant.
In the current study, side effects with creams and patches that apply testosterone through the skin included slight weight gain, mild acne, and increased hair growth. Oral testosterone appeared to increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the “bad” kind that builds up in blood vessels and can lead to blood clots and heart attacks.
The study also looked at some other common reasons why women take testosterone and found no beneficial effects on cognitive measures, bone mineral density, body composition or muscle strength. No benefits were seen for depressive mood introspective of menopausal status or in psychological wellbeing.