Low testosterone in women is as common as it is in men, and symptoms of an imbalance are similar. Testosterone is considered an androgen (a male sex related hormone), but women do also have testosterone, although much lower levels than men. It is produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands and fat cells. Just like with men, women’s testosterone levels begin to wane in the late twenties/early thirties and continue to decline with aging. For example, a woman who is 40 years old will have about one half of the testosterone that she had when she was 20.
Other things can cause testosterone levels to drop suddenly or more rapidly such as having a hysterectomy, especially if the ovaries are removed, and dysfunction of the adrenal glands or pituitary gland. Adrenal fatigue is a common cause of dysfunction that can affect hormone levels; this is usually caused by a combination of chronic, high stress levels and poor dietary habits.
Symptoms of low testosterone in women include:
- Decreased libido
- Reduced strength, endurance, muscle tone
- Increased weight gain, especially around abdominal area
- Dry and/or thinning skin
- Sleep disturbances
- “Low” mood
- Decreased energy levels
- Overall lack of motivation
- Fertility problems
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Hair loss (usually “patchy” and all over the head)
- Increased anxiety levels
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in bone density levels
Symptom for low testosterone in women can be similar to other conditions such as Hypothyroidism, Depression, Iron deficiency, and low levels of other hormones such as estrogen and progesterone so it’s ALWAYS important to have all hormone levels checked, including thyroid, to determine what’s causing symptoms. Lab tests will give the full “story” of what’s going on.
Though it’s much less common, some women have too much testosterone and it’s just as important to see a doctor for this as it is for low testosterone. Symptoms can include:
- Excess body hair
- Excess hair on chin or upper lip
- Deepening voice
- Acne and/or oily skin
- Balding around hairline
- Increased muscle mass/change in body shape
- Absence of periods
Research and studies in the past on low testosterone in women were not consistent and findings were varied regarding testosterone therapy for women. For example, one study associated an increase in abdominal weight gain after taking testosterone, however those results have been deemed “flawed” because the women participating had other hormonal imbalances going on that were not taken into consideration.
More recently though, research is showing that testosterone therapy is important and plays a big role in both how women feel, especially in regards to their libido and staying fit, lean, and active, and in their long-term health.
The New England Journal of Medicine, 2000, reported:
“Randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled study examined effects on testosterone patches on 75 women, aged 31-65 who had undergone a hysterectomy and bilateral oophorectomy (removal of both ovaries). Hysterectomies, without or without oophorectomy significantly decrease circulating levels of testosterone. Over three consecutive, 12-week periods, the women were given placebo, 150-mcg test patches, or 300-mcg testosterone patches. The unequivocal result was that women who received 300-mcg patches showed significant improvement in sexual function, mood, and general well-being.”
Another study published by the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism showed that women who were given testosterone therapy lost two times more body fat and gained more muscle mass than women given a placebo. The women taking the testosterone therapy gained considerable lean muscle mass over a nine-month period (which helps you to lose weight). Both groups were on the same low-fat diet and exercise regime during the course of study.
Additionally, studies suggest that a deficiency in testosterone can be a “key predictive factor” for heart disease in menopausal women or women who have had hysterectomies, and that these women have three times more risk in developing cardiovascular disease – so treating low testosterone in women is important.
Of course, women only need a very small percentage of testosterone supplementation compared to what men need. When testosterone is balanced, women report that they feel more like they did when they were younger and have pep in their step again, with better mood and motivation. Entering the hormonal shifts that occur with peri-menopause and menopause can really have an impact on life and it’s always rewarding to feel like oneself again!
The Renewed Vitality practitioners are experts in hormone balancing. Our lab testing is much more comprehensive than what is traditionally done by most doctors so that all areas of deficiency and imbalances can be identified so that you can feel your very best.