Testosterone for women in menopause is an interesting topic and one that I have been following closely more recently. I have heard from a number of different sources – expert sources – that testosterone is being increasingly advised as part of the treatment for the effects of menopause. Indeed, GPs – at least in Scotland – can now prescribe testosterone gels to women, albeit in the form of a treatment that is created for men. I am now about to start Testogel and I thought it might be useful to document how it goes for me.
One of the frustrating areas of treatments for menopause is a historic lack of research. Only more recently, have there been studies into HRT use in general. I have heard, again from a respected source, that there is now more research being done into the benefits of testosterone for menopausal women but just now the studies are limited.
What is claimed, however, is that testosterone can help with some of the negatives of menopause, including improved energy, mood, concentration and sex drive. Other benefits are said to be a reduction in joint pain and the speed at which muscles deplete.
By the way, if you want testosterone treatment currently you need to persuade the GP that you are suffering low libido. This shouldn’t be difficult for most menopausal women but it is worth noting.
Also, your medical practitioner will want to check that you are already on HRT and you will have blood tests to check your testosterone levels.
Let’s take a look at testosterone in relation to women in menopause before I tell you about my first dose of Testogel.
What is testosterone?
Testosterone is one of the sex hormones that women produce. Many people will think of it as a “male” hormone, but women also need to have testosterone. When testosterone decreases, just as oestrogen and progesterone do during peri-menopasue and menopause, many women find their libido is negatively affected.
There is also some evidence that lower testosterone levels can affect mood and increase your risk of being depressed. Other issues I’ve heard related to low testosterone are tiredness, low energy, increased anxiety, muscle depletion, joint pain and poor concentration.
Is there testosterone treatment for women?
At the moment in the UK, there is no testosterone treament licensed specifically for women. It might be coming though because a treatment for women is licensed in other countries, such as Australia.
So, we have to use a small dose of male testosterone treatment.
Accoding to a report by the NHS, “the safety and efficacy of testosterone replacement in women has been demonstrated in randomised studies, which have monitored women for up to 12 months and reported significant improvement in sexual function”.
But due to the lack of availability of licensed female testosterone preparations, products such as Tostran® and Testogel®, which are manufactured and licensed for use in men, have been used outside their product licence for women.
Testosterone and HRT
Testosterone will normally be combined with standard HRT as it works better when there is oestrogen as well.
Using testosterone in menopause
I had a blood test, which showed my testosterone level to be what was described as low.
So I did a bit of on-line research. The British Menopause Society states that a healthy young woman produces around 100-400 mcg of testosterone per day. Healthline expands on this, suggesting normal female testosterone levels can range from 15 to 70 ng/dL (nanograms per deciliter) or 0.5 to 2.4 nmol/l.
I was told my level was 0.5 and should be closer to 1.5.
At first, I was prescribed Tostran®, but I could not find this stocked with local pharmacies, so I have Testogel®. It comes in sachets. You should not use the instructions that come with the sachets because these are for male use. Instead, use as prescribed by your GP.
I have had the Testogel for a few weeks but, like many people I chat to, I have been a bit nervous about trying it. The idea that I might suffer some side effects was putting me off but then I spoke to women who have found it beneficial. So, I have started today.
I am meant to use an eighth of a sachet daily. Given that I had no idea how much an eighth looked like, I decided to squeeze out an entire sachet to see the total amount. It is a gel – and a fairly wet gel at that. It was still quite tricky to determine but I decided that a small bob on my fingertip was about an eighth. It is about the size of a large Jelly tot.
You rub this gel on to an area of dry skin, such as upper arm, outer thigh or buttock. The advice is to change where you rub the gel on a regular basis.
Occasionally, some women notice some increased hair growth or skin changes in the area in which they have rubbed the gel. This can be avoided by rotating the area of skin on which you rub the gel or applying as a thinner layer.
It would be much more useful if the gel was administered as it is with oestrogel, in a pump dispenser that gives the exact amount each time.
I rubbed the first blob of testogel on my upper arm. It is “wetter” than oestogel but dries in quite quickly. It doesn’t take the five minutes that I read it might take, but about 30 seconds. It smells a bit medical acrid at first but that disappears.
Apparently I may need to wait six months to feel any effects but I thought it would be useful to start with the blog post and update as I go along.
My GP will retest my bloods in a few months.
Side effects of testosterone
Apparently, there are usually no noticeable side effects of testosterone as it is given to restore testosterone to levels before the menopause.
However, some side effects are dose dependent and might include:
- Increased facial or body hair
- Acne and greasy skin
- Deepening of voice
- Enlarged clitoris.
While there is plenty of information about long-term side effects of oestrogen and progesterone replacement therapy in the menopause, there is less information about long-term effects of testosterone replacement therapy. There is also a lack of long-term data for women using testosterone, but the NHS reveals that data up to five years shows no adverse effect in healthy women after menopause.