While testosterone has long been known to play a role in women's health as well as men's, only recently has testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) been an option for women experiencing the symptoms of testosterone imbalance. As testosterone levels decline after menopause, many women are affected by bothersome symptoms caused by this imbalance, such as decreased sex drive. Synthetic testosterone is one means of balancing testosterone levels and is available in the form of tablets, injections, implanted pellets, creams, skin patches, gels, or sprays. As this form of treatment is still fairly new, the side effects of testosterone replacement are not yet fully understood.
What is known is that testosterone should not be used by pregnant women, those who are lactating, or those who have a suspected form of cancer. Various reports have indicated that high levels of testosterone are more prevalent in women who develop breast cancer, though this claim is somewhat controversial. Furthermore, testosterone levels should always be monitored during treatment, and blood levels must be kept within the normal range for females.
If the benefits of testosterone replacement theraphy cannot be seen after six months of use, then the treatment should be discontinued and other options should be explored with the guidance of a medical professional.
The following side effects have all been linked to testosterone replacement therapy in women, particularly of postmenopausal age:
There are several short-term problems that can affect women using this type of therapy. However, these symptoms should soon pass. They include:
- Increase in LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels
- Decrease in HDL (“good” cholesterol) levels
- Unexplained fatigue
- Mood changes
- Fluid retention
Other side effects associated with testosterone replacement therapy can be more persistent and affect women for longer periods of time. These include:
- Oily skin
- Sleep apnea
- Enlargement of the clitoris
Uncommon long-term effects include: acne, increase in facial hair, deepening of the voice, and liver disease.
Such side effects do not usually pose a problem if the appropriate dose of testosterone is taken and there is regular monitoring of blood levels. If a woman notices any negative side effects, it's recommended to reduce testosterone dosage accordingly.
Now that the side effects of testosterone replacement therapy have been explained, continue reading to find out about the relationship between hormone replacement therapy and menopause.