Menopause is frequently accompanied by uncomfortable symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, depression, vaginal dryness, decreased libido, and others. These symptoms can be mild in some cases and severe in others. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) remains the gold standard in the treatment of menopause-related symptoms even though it is associated with an increased risk of stroke, breast cancer, and coronary heart disease.
Luckily, there is a new promising treatment for menopause symptoms, namely testosterone therapy. The studies on the role of testosterone in treating menopause symptoms are still in their infancy but the results are promising. If you want to know how these treatments might lessen the symptoms of menopause, then keep reading.
About menopause and declining hormone levels
Menopause usually refers to the transitional period when a woman’s body changes as a result of her ovaries producing less of the female hormone oestrogen. This process starts happening around a woman’s mid-forties but can happen much earlier or later than that.
Due to less oestrogen in the body, the number of follicles released from the ovaries gradually decreases. This, in turn, results in fewer or irregular periods. Once a woman has stopped having periods for at least a year, she has officially reached menopause.
There are also instances where a woman enters menopause as a result of surgery such as hysterectomy.
In both cases, a woman going through a menopause transition will experience some uncomfortable symptoms that could affect her ability to function normally.
Menopause treatments are designed to lessen the severity of the symptoms of menopause, most notably hot flashes. A study by the Women’s Health Initiative has revealed that oestrogen and progesterone therapies for postmenopausal women increased their risk of the diseases we’ve mentioned earlier. This has raised concerns among both healthcare practitioners and women alike which is why HRT is now prescribed with caution.
Interestingly, the role of testosterone in a woman’s overall feelings of well-being has been unfairly neglected. Although testosterone is considered predominantly a male hormone because it is found in much larger amounts in the male body, women also produce the hormone from their ovaries and adrenal glands.
Testosterone serves a variety of purposes, some of which are:
- Red blood cell production.
- Body composition (muscle to fat ratio).
- Sex drive
- Bone mineral density
- Menopause and testosterone therapy
Testosterone therapy is more often prescribed for menopausal women experiencing sexual problems such as vaginal dryness, loss of desire, and problems with arousal.
The declining testosterone levels during menopause are known to be partially responsible for a reduced sex drive in women. This is why testosterone therapy is prescribed to women with hypoactive-sexual desire disorder (HSDD). However, some studies found an increased incidence of breast cancer among women taking these supplements, which raised further concerns regarding their safety.
The increased incidence of breast cancer among women taking testosterone therapy is believed to be a result of testosterone being aromatised in vivo which increases oestrogen concentration in tissue sensitive to oestrogen such as the breasts.
Another theory is that testosterone itself may affect breast tissue because there are androgen receptors in the breasts. A major concern regarding this therapy is an increase in vaginal bleeding which has made some women stop the therapy altogether. However, on the plus side, this type of therapy can increase a woman’s sex drive and reduce the severity of other symptoms accompanying menopause.
Promising results of testosterone for menopause
Testosterone therapy is usually given in forms other than oral administration. This is because oral administration of testosterone is associated with an increased incidence of liver disease. Instead, testosterone is frequently applied in patch, gel, topical, or dermal implant form. One study found that subcutaneous implants containing testosterone and low doses of anastrozole relieved menopause symptoms in breast cancer survivors who frequently develop menopause symptoms due to hormone deficiency.
The research, which was presented at the 2014 ASCO Breast Cancer Symposium, found that all major psychological and physiological symptoms decreased significantly in all women by as much as 80%. The study’s lead author, Rebecca Glaser, MD., has performed more than 1,000 of these types of implants for women with breast cancer. According to her data, the incidence of the cancers returning are very low, making this therapy obviously safe even for breast cancer survivors.
What this means for menopausal women
Dr. Glaser states for The ASCO Post that even menopausal women seek her out for this type of therapy to find some relief because the women from the cancer research experienced relief from all major symptoms associated with menopause like hot flashes, the study’s findings could easily apply to women going through natural menopause.
There is also enough reason for optimism regarding this therapy as the researchers did not observe an increased incidence of breast cancer from this therapy nor an increase in serum estradiol which can happen with other testosterone therapies and which increases the likelihood of developing breast cancer. However, how exactly testosterone reduce the symptoms of menopause remains unexplained.
Testosterone therapy is still a relatively new treatment for menopause symptoms. Health care practitioners are cautious about giving women testosterone therapy, as their true effects remain unknown and because this type of therapy has caused uncomfortable symptoms in some women. There is also concern that this therapy might also increase one’s risk of breast cancer.
However, new studies are giving promising result regarding testosterone therapy. Testosterone, when used in conjunction with anastrozole, and without estrogen and progesterone, can offer significant relief from all major menopause symptoms without compromising a woman’s health. However, more research is needed to know how exactly testosterone affects a woman’s body and to rule out any adverse health outcomes.
Have you started menopause? How are you handling it? Share with us below.
Image source Shutterstock.
Posted by mom195913, 17th August 2016