Menopause breakthrough: How testosterone can treat sex disorder in older women

Experts say testosterone may help post-menopausal women overcome sex problems caused by 'the change of life'. Source: Getty

The change of life is something all women go through and while some people experience hot flushes and mood swings when they become menopausal, others completely lose their desire to have sex. While it’s something many women just accept, researchers now say that testosterone treatment may be an effective way of improving sexual wellbeing for postmenopausal women who experience Hypoactive Sexual Desire Dysfunction (HSDD).

HSDD is a sexual dysfunction characterised as a lack or absence of sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity and impacts around 32 per cent of women at midlife. While it’s common for women to lose interest in sex when they become menopausal, testosterone could significantly improve their sexual and emotional wellbeing.

A new position statement led by the International Menopause Society found that testosterone could also improve arousal, orgasm and pleasure, as well as reduce concerns and distress many postmenopausal women have about sex. The position statement is the first in the world on the use of testosterone treatment of women and follows years of debate about whether this kind of therapy can work.

Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone but for most menopausal symptoms, it’s actually the female sex hormone oestrogen that is used to treat symptoms. Women typically replace the oestrogen the body is no longer producing through oestrogen tablets, creams and patches. Experts say the latest agreement could change the lives of women all around the world.

“This position statement has far reaching global consequences. It not only reassures clinicians that a trial of testosterone therapy is appropriate for women with HSDD, but very emphatically states that, at present, the available evidence does not support the use of testosterone for any other symptoms or medical condition,” Professor Susan Davis, president of the International Menopause Society, said in a statement.

She added: “It also clearly advises that when testosterone therapy is given, the resultant blood levels should not be above those seen in healthy young women. We hope this will allow women who may benefit to be offered treatment, and simultaneously protect women from receiving inappropriate testosterone therapy.”

The Global Position Statement has been developed, approved and endorsed by a broad group of experts from international women’s health, sexual medicine, endocrine, gynaecological and menopause societies around the world. Dr Sharon Parish from the Weill Cornell Medical College, who worked on the agreement, added: “The key messages for clinicians and researchers who care for and study postmenopausal women across a wide array of clinical and research disciplines are that testosterone clearly has positive benefits on sexual function and minimal side effects and low risk profiles, and is a very important and critical treatment option for postmenopausal women with HSDD.”

The international panel is now calling on industry, researchers and funding organisations to invest in further research around testosterone therapy and develop products that are specifically formulated for women. Those impacted by HSDD could greatly benefit typically show little to no interest in sexual activity, have few sexual thoughts or fantasies, are often hesitant to initiate sex and may ind it difficult to experience pleasure during sex.

In addition to menopause, an array of other conditions including cancer, diabetes, depression and thyroid issues may result in HSDD. Similarly, some medication such as those used to treat pain, high blood pressure, depression and anxiety may also cause problems.

At present, counselling and sex therapy are often offered for women experiencing the issue, while some medication is available for women who haven’t yet reached menopause. It’s always best to talk about the side effects of menopause with a health professional as they will be able to offer tips based on individual circumstances.

Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and information purposes only. It does not take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. It is not personalised health advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any decisions about your health or changes to medication, diet and exercise routines you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from a medical professional.

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