Risks of Testosterone Treatment in Women

Testosterone is recommended for use in women when ovarian function declines and especially in young women who have had surgical removal of the ovaries. Ovarian function can decline from as early as the mid-thirties and is not necessarily related directly to the menopause.

Testosterone is a naturally occurring hormone in women and crucial for maintaining good health and well-being in both sexes. Women produce relatively small amounts compared to men.

Blood testosterone levels of between 2-4 nmol/L is the “normal” range for young healthy women. By contrast the level varies between 10-35 nmol/L in men.

In a similar manner to assessing men, the diagnosis of androgen levels in women should be determined by measuring the levels of testosterone and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) and the free androgen index (FAI). The FAI normal range is between 2% and 7%. A FAI of less than 2 signifies a deficiency.

Your doctor will usually order these blood tests before prescribing testosterone replacement. Low total testosterone, mid level total testosterone with high SHBG or low FAI are all results that may warrant replacement. Your doctor can advise you of your options.

Hormone Solutions recommends a medical practitioner closely monitors supplementation.

Provided blood levels are maintained within the normal range, side effects do not occur. Continual high dose supplementation in women may induce side effects.

Side effects may include the following:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Jaundice
  • Joint swelling
  • Increased body hair
  • Deepening of the voice
  • Increased acne
  • Signs of virilisation
  • Weight gain
  • Persistent headaches

It is very important to understand that these side effects are extremely unlikely when doses are monitored and blood levels are kept within the normal ranges.

In general, testosterone supplementation should only be used when women’s estrogen levels are adequate. Post menopausal women who are not taking an estrogen supplement may benefit, but estrogen may offer relief from menopausal symptoms that will also respond.

Osteoporosis is an area of women’s health where testosterone has been shown to play an important role.

A number of medical studies have strongly indicated the positive effect has on bone mineral density. Little has been done to examine how this effect translates into reduction of bone fractures.