Testosterone treatment is one of the most misunderstood therapies, especially when it comes to testosterone treatment for women. Because testosterone is the main male reproductive hormone, many people are surprised that testosterone is important for female health, too. The myths and misconceptions surrounding testosterone therapy can prevent many women from getting the treatment they need for optimal health and wellness. So let’s set the record straight.
Busting the Top 10 Myths and Misconceptions about Testosterone Treatment
Myth #1: Testosterone is a ‘male’ hormone and not for women
While men do have higher levels of testosterone in the bloodstream, it is a critical hormone for female health. Testosterone is the most abundant biologically active sex steroid hormone in women. In fact, there is about ten times as much testosterone in the female body as there is estrogen.
Myth #2: Testosterone’s only role is to improve sex and libido
Like other hormones, testosterone is a chemical messenger that acts on a specific set of cells. Hormones pass along messages by binding to special receptor molecules on certain cells. The act of binding to the receptor tells the cell to do something. Androgens, like testosterone, bind to androgen receptors. There are testosterone receptors in tissues all over the body, including in the heart, brain and other organs, which means that testosterone plays a role in the function and health of those tissues and organs.
Testosterone levels can drop with age in both pre- and post-menopausal women and aging men. This testosterone deficiency can lead to a variety of symptoms, such as physical fatigue, bone and muscle loss, and overall lack of well-being in both men and women. Testosterone deficiencies can cause hot flashes, pain, urinary problems and sexual dysfunction, and result in changes in cognition and memory loss. Low testosterone levels can even cause anxiety, irritability, and depression for both genders.
Myth #3: Testosterone masculinizes women
Many women worry that testosterone treatment will make them seem more masculine by triggering hair growth and bigger muscles. While this is true with high doses of testosterone, low doses of the hormone actually stimulate femininity.
Myth #4: Testosterone causes hoarseness and voice changes
Hoarseness is common and more common in women than in men, but there is no evidence that testosterone can cause hoarseness or voice changes. Allergies, infections of the voice box, overuse of the voice, medications and conditions affecting the vocal cords are the most common causes of hoarseness and voice changes.
Myth #5: Testosterone treatment causes hair loss in women
Not true! In fact, the correct therapeutic dose of testosterone can actually increase scalp hair growth in women. Men have higher testosterone levels than women. Men also tend to lose hair as they grow older because of another male sex hormone, known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT). There is no connection between the male sex hormone testosterone and hair loss, though, in either men or women.
Myth #6: Testosterone has adverse effects on the heart
Once again, men have higher testosterone levels than women and men have higher rates of heart disease, but there is no evidence to show that testosterone has any adverse effects on the heart. In fact, testosterone is good for muscles, so the hormone can have a positive effect on the heart, which is a muscle. Furthermore, testosterone, estrogen and growth hormone are three of the few medications that have been shown to reduce the amount of plaque that builds up on the carotid arteries in the neck and has a high correlation with coronary plaque which results in cardiovascular disease.
Myth #7: Testosterone causes liver damage
While it is true that the old-fashioned testosterone preparations of yesteryear were hard on the liver, modern non-oral or sublingual testosterone treatments completely bypass the liver altogether, so there is no danger of liver damage.
Myth #8: Testosterone causes aggression
Increased aggression and rage is often the first thing that comes to mind when people think about anabolic steroid treatment and testosterone in men, so many women fear that testosterone treatment will cause them to be more aggressive. The good news is that research shows that testosterone treatment actually decreases anxiety and stress in female patients.
Myth #9: Testosterone may increase the risk of breast cancer
Studies in primates and humans show that testosterone can actually protect breast tissue from cancer. There is a well-established connection between high estrogen levels and breast cancer. Increasing testosterone can lower the relative amount of estrogen, thereby protecting the breast tissue.
Myth #10: The safety of testosterone use in women is not well established
Doctors have been administering testosterone implants in women since 1938, which makes it easy to establish the long-term safety and effectiveness of the treatment. Researchers have performed many excellent studies on the safety of testosterone treatment in women, and these studies have established that women can tolerate relatively high doses of testosterone for up to 40 years of therapy.
Debunking these myths and misconceptions about testosterone in females can help women get the treatment they need for optimal health and wellness. For more information about the true benefits of testosterone treatment in women, make an appointment with a qualified and informed Age Management Physician who uses Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy.
Citation: Maturitas. 2013 Mar;74(3):230-4