Experts warn that testosterone-based drugs may be a “game changer” for women who are struggling with low libido.
The women are now more likely to seek treatment for low mood and other issues.
But as women age, there is an increasing concern about the impact these medications are having on their libido, their fertility and their ability to stay healthy.
“We know that testosterone levels in older women are lower than in younger women,” says Dr. Lisa Miller, a senior research scientist at the National Institutes of Health.
“And that may be contributing to the decline in libido and the decline that we see in fertility.”
Dr. Miller and Dr. Marni M. Stahl, an endocrinologist at the University of California, Davis, examined a database of 2,700 women ages 55 to 79, and found that those who took a testosterone-related medication were at a significantly higher risk of having a lower sex drive.
That suggests that the drugs could be affecting a person’s sex drive and fertility, rather than just affecting their testosterone levels.
“There’s no doubt that testosterone is a powerful hormone,” says Miller.
“But it’s also very difficult to measure the effects on your reproductive function.
We have no way to measure this in the laboratory.”
Miller, Stahl and other experts say the question of whether testosterone can cause harm is more complicated than just whether it is harmful.
Some experts say that it is more likely that testosterone can increase blood flow to the genitals, which can lead to an increase in testosterone levels and a decrease in libidos.
Other experts say there are other factors at play that could explain why the drugs can affect sex drive, such as how they are used and the duration of treatment.
But a review of the data on testosterone and sex drive by the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior found that while there was some evidence of a relationship between the use of testosterone-containing medications and the number of sex acts women engaged in, the relationship was not strong enough to draw any conclusions about causation.
“The most compelling evidence suggests that there is no relationship between use of the hormone and sex life,” says Stahl.
“Sex is a function of the male brain.
If you reduce the level of testosterone, then the activity of the hypothalamus and other parts of the brain decreases.”
The authors of the review say the most likely cause of the lack of a positive relationship between testosterone and sexual function is that the drug does not alter a person s hormone-mediated response to sexual stimuli, but instead changes the way the brain perceives sexual arousal.
“It is difficult to get a strong sense of what causes this,” says James A. Miller of the University at Albany, who did not take part in the review.
“That is not the case for most other hormones.
It seems to be more about the hormone itself.
There’s no way that testosterone and other hormones would be able to affect the brain in a way that would result in reduced arousal.
There are a lot of unanswered questions.”
The National Institutes for Health recently released a report on the health impacts of testosterone that found that women who use testosterone-replacement therapy for sexual dysfunction are more likely than other women to experience erectile dysfunction, infertility and post-traumatic stress disorder.
In the new study, Miller and her colleagues analyzed the data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which is conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The survey was conducted from 2003 to 2008.
The researchers looked at how many sexual partners women had, how many were partners who used testosterone-like drugs, and the prevalence of sexual dysfunction in the women who took the drugs.
There was a significant positive correlation between the prevalence and frequency of sexual disorder in women taking the testosterone-specific medications and their higher risk for sexual disorder.
“Our data suggest that testosterone treatment for sexual dysfunctions could be a way to reduce the risk of sexual dysfunction,” Miller says.
The study does not include data on women who were treated with hormone replacement therapy before the age of 50.
Miller says there is a lot to be learned from the data, but that the data “really does paint a pretty grim picture.”
“It’s not like we’re saying that there are all the men who can’t be treated with testosterone and they’re not going to get it,” Miller adds.
“Some men are going to have testosterone deficiency.
Some men are not going get it.”
The researchers suggest that clinicians use the same approach as they do for men who are on hormone therapy.
“If you’re treating an older person who is on hormone replacement treatment, the most effective way to do it is to treat her at the same time that she’s receiving hormone replacement medication,” Miller explains.
“So we would have to do the same thing as a doctor would do for a younger person who’s taking hormone replacement.
You would be treating the same individual and treating her at different times