Approximately 30 million American women Aare thought to have low levels of the androgens (so-called male hormones) they need, including testosterone and DHEA.

Common causes of these low levels include diminished ovarian function, estrogen supplementation (either by birth control pills or by hormone replacement therapy) and impaired adrenal function.

Symptoms include: Osteoporosis, reduced sex drive (which could be due to diminished libido or lack of interest due to pain or dryness), loss of muscle tone, low energy, lack of mental clarity and decreased enjoyment of life.

Diagnosis: To check for androgen deficiency in women, it's best to measure levels of testosterones and DHEA-sulfate (DHEA-S), another androgen. Total testosterone less than 30 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) and/or DHEA-S levels less than 100 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL) may be reason to consider supplementation.

Treatment: Among women who have sexual dysfunction due to low androgens, treatment using low-dose testosterone or low-dose DHEA significantly increases sex drive-approximately 70% of the time. Although the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved testosterones supplements for use in women, many doctors are prescribing them anyway.

Warning: Unnecessary supplementation can lead to excessive androgen levels, resulting in heavier pubic hair growth, clitoral enlargement, acne, increased facial hair growth, lowered voice, and reduced levels of HDL ('good") cholesterol. Close monitoring of testosterone levels is advised.

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