JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - You tend to think of big, beefy guys taking testosterone, but a growing number of women are taking it, and saying they are reaping the rewards of what we typically think of as a men's-only hormone.
"Susan" as she would like us to call her is hardly the image that comes to mind when you think of a woman taking testosterone. She admits she had her worries.
"...That I'm going to have facial hair or that I'm going to have big bulky muscles because I workout," she explained.
Susan has has been on testosterone replacement therapy for 10 years.
You may ask, how much testosterone do women have anyway, and how much do we need?
Beaches internist Dr. Anthony Capasso has been prescribing testosterone replacement therapy to both men and women for years. He told us women's bodies produce testosterone in two places...
"The ovaries produce testosterone as do the adrenal glands," Capasso explained. "When women go through menopause, when the ovaries quit producing estrogen, they also quit producing testosterone."
And when that happens, Capasso says there's a drastic drop in testosterone levels and that means a dramatic rise in uncomfortable symptoms, including being tired and having no energy.
That's what happened to Susan. She was having issued with menopause with a laundry list of symptoms and got a blood test.
Susan says that test found, "That my testosterone was low, that my estrogen was low, that my thyroid was low."
She got the appropriate treatment, including testosterone replacement.
"And they were truly able to make me feel and look better immediately," she said.
Critics say there aren't enough long term studies on testosterone therapy in women to see if it's safe and effective. As for side effects, Capasso says most women tolerate it very well. However, he says the biggest complaint is facial hair.
"When you say facial hair, I think, do I want that? We're not talking beards. A little more coarse hair in the facial region. And that's by far the biggest complaint I hear," he said.
Testosterone for women and men can be given in many forms, for instance it comes in a cream, in a gel and it can be injected. But Capasso prefers pellets implanted under the skin.
As for Susan, she encourages other women who are silently suffering what can be miserable menopause symptoms to speak up.
"I would love for women who even question whether they even need hormone therapy or not, to go to a physician and ask. It can't hurt to go find out and test it because I think they'll find it can be very beneficial for a lot of reasons," she said.
There's a wide range of what's considered normal testosterone levels for men and women, so do your research and talk to your doctor. As for insurance, it will pay for some testosterone treatments but not others, so definitely check with your provider.
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