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

Common causes include diminished ovarian function, estrogen supplementation (either in birth control pills or in hormone replacement therapy) and impaired adrenal function.

Symptoms include: Osteoporosis, reduced sex drive (which could be due to diminished Iibido 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 testosterone and DHEA-sulfate (DHEA-S), another androgen. Total testosterone below 30 nanograms per deciliter and/or DHEA-S levels below 100 micrograms per deciliter may be cause to consider supplementation.

Treatment: Among women with sexual dysfunction due to low androgens, treatment with low-dose testosterone or low-dose DHEA significantly increases sex drive about 70% of the time. While the FDA has not yet approved testosterone 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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