Andrew Siegel MD 10/31/15
Many of my recent entries have been male-oriented. It’s time to give the fairer sex some equal time.
(Above image entitled: Mujer culturista mostrando la musculación de la espalda y los brazos, author: roonb, created November 2007, no changes to original image, creative commons license 2.0, link to license: creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)
Female sexual dysfunction (FSD) is a common condition that may encompass diminished desire, decreased sexual arousal, difficulty achieving orgasm and pain with sexual intercourse. The most prevalent issue is decreased or lack of sexual desire, now given the formal medical title: Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD), although I prefer the less formal, non-medical version: “Honey, I’m not in the mood.”
Testosterone (T)—the key male sexual hormone—has a strong role in stimulating sexual drive in both men and women and has long been used to manage diminished female libido and other sexual issues, despite it not being approved by the FDA for this intent. It has been shown to improve libido, arousal, sexual pleasure and overall sexual satisfaction.
Testosterone In Women
Although T is the major male sex hormone, it is also vital in females, similarly to how estrogen is the key female sex hormone, but has important functions in males as well. In pre-menopausal women, the ovaries and adrenals (those paired glands that sit atop each kidney) each produce about 25% of T, with the other 50% produced by muscle and fat cells. The two biggest factors leading to a decrease in blood T levels are aging and menopause.
Pre-menopausal women produce about 0.25 mg T/day. (Men produce 6-8 mg T/day, about 25 times as much as females). Even after menopause, the ovaries continue to produce T. Women who have their ovaries removed experience a dramatic decrease in T.
One of the major limitations of measuring T levels in females is the lack of reliable and accurate assays to precisely measure T levels at such low concentrations. Another shortcoming is that there is no concensus on what precisely is the lower level of T in females.
Symptoms of low T in females may include diminished libido, fatigue, lack of energy, decrease in well being, impaired concentration, depression and difficulties with arousal and orgasm. These symptoms of low T are very non-specific and have quite an overlap with the symptoms and changes that accompany normal aging, insufficient or poor quality sleep, overworking and/or an unhealthy lifestyle. Signs of low T in females are decreased muscle mass, increased body fat, thinning hair and bone wasting (osteopenia).
Decreased Female Libido
This is defined as absent or reduced interest in and arousal from sex, erotic thoughts, fantasies, or written, verbal, and visual cues. There is usually a reduction in initiation of sex and reception to partner’s initiation attempts. When sexual activity does occur, there is often absent or reduced sensation (both genital and non-genital), excitement and pleasure. Although low T is an important cause of decreased sex drive, there are many other competing causes including other sexual issues such as pain with intercourse or inability to orgasm, medical diseases, medications, unhealthy lifestyle, fatigue, pregnancy, breast-feeding, menopause, boredom, stress, many other psycho-emotional factors and relationship issues.
T has been shown to improve sexual function in both pre-and post-menopausal women. Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) should only be a consideration after other causes of diminished libido have been eliminated. It is challenging to predict which women will respond best to T therapy. Another concern is the safety and potential side effects with the long-term use of TRT.
There are currently no FDA-approved TRT products for women in the USA, so any usage is off-label. Products designed for TRT in males are available in a variety of preparations, including skin patches, gels and creams, buccal (gum) preparation, nasal gels, injections and long-acting pellets implanted in fatty tissue. Common side effects of TRT include unwanted hair growth, acne and mood or personality changes.
Addyi (Flibanserin) is a new oral medication for diminished libido. It is currently being marketed largely to females, but is purportedly effective for both genders. It is the first FDA- approved prescription for diminished sex drive and has been referred to as “pink Viagra.” It is not TRT, but works centrally by affecting serotonin levels. It just became available this month.
Excellent reference on this subject: Khera, M. Testosterone Therapy for Female Sexual Dysfunction. Sex Med Rev 2015;3:137-144
Wishing you the best of health,
A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”: www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com
Author of Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health: available in e-book (Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo) and paperback: www.MalePelvicFitness.com. In the works is The Kegel Fix: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health.
Co-creator of Private Gym, a comprehensive, interactive, FDA-registered follow-along male pelvic floor muscle training program. Built upon the foundational work of Dr. Arnold Kegel, Private Gym empowers men to increase pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, power, and endurance: www.PrivateGym.com or Amazon.
Tags: Addyi, adrenal glands, Andrew Siegel MD, estrogen, female sexual dysfunction, hypoactive sexual desire disorder, libido, ovaries, sex drive, testosterone in females, testosterone replacement therapy