In a study of women who have not reached menopause, have low levels of testosterone and lack any interest in sex, daily treatment with a hormone administered as a spray was associated with a statistically significant improvement in sexual satisfaction.
The researchers point out that these improvements were equivalent to about one satisfactory sexual encounter per month and occurred only among the women who were taking an intermediate dose. "The investigators also noted a 'substantial placebo effect'."
They emphasise that these findings are preliminary and do not mean that testosterone should start being used by women on a widespread basis.
Although testosterone is a male hormone, it is found in small amounts in women also, just as small amounts of the female hormone oestrogen can be found in men.
How the study was done
The study, reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine, involved 261 women who were randomly assigned to receive the testosterone spray, in one of three doses or a placebo, each day for 16 weeks.
At the end of the trial, all of the treatment groups reported an increase in the number of satisfactory sexual encounters, Dr Susan Davis, from Monash University in Victoria, Australia, and colleagues found.
Compared with the placebo, only the intermediate dose of testosterone (90 microlitres) was associated with a significant increase in the number of satisfactory sexual encounters over 28 days by week 16, the report indicates.
What the study showed
At the 16-week follow-up, 95 percent of the women treated with the intermediate dose still had testosterone levels within the normal range for women.
Excessive hair growth was the most commonly reported side effect with testosterone therapy and was usually limited to the application site. No significant changes in any laboratory values were noted.
The researchers "caution against the widespread use of testosterone in pre-menopausal women, and I agree," Dr Rosemary Basson, from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, writes in a related editorial.
"I advise primary physicians to assess women's sexual concerns in detail, and then address mental health and relationship issues and any sexual dysfunction in the partner," Basson writes.
"Then, if necessary, schedule further follow-up to treat the issues by conventional therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, sex therapy, psychotherapy, and mindfulness techniques." – (Reuters Health)
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