From a woman's teens until menopause, her body makes a fair amount of the hormone testosterone in addition to estrogen. Testosterone affects sexual desire and response... muscle and bone growth...immune function. In women, testosterone is produced by ovaries and adrenal glands.

  • Testosterone deficiency. Many factors can inhibit testosterone production. These include aging...certain medications (antidepressants, birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, corticosteroids)...removal of or damage to the ovaries...prolonged severe stress...obesity.

Potential symptoms of deficiency. Loss of interest in sex or loss of sexual sensation... unusual fatigue, low energy, feeling blue...diminished muscle tone and strength...reduced height due to bone loss...thinning hair...dry eyes...more frequent or intense headaches.

  • Diagnosis and treatment. A blood test is the best way to assess testosterone levels. If you are diagnosed with low testosterone, work with a physician to create an Individualized supplement program. FDA-approved testosterone therapies for women are limited. Currently, the medications must be compounded (specially prepared at a pharmacy). Testosterone can be taken by injection, as tablets, via a skin patch or as a cream. Non-oral methods minimize side effects. Excess testosterone can cause irritability, difficulty sleeping, violent dreams, acne, facial hair, loss of scalp hair, food cravings, increased blood pressure and suddenly high cholesterol. During treatment, have blood levels checked regularly.

Warning: The 1% to 296 concentrations of-ten prescribed in testosterone creams are too strong—a safer dose starts at 0.1%. Testosterone therapy is not appropriate for women with breast or uterine cancer or cardiovascular or liver disease. It may interfere with certain drugs, such as the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin) and the blood pressure medication propranolol (Inderal).

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