Testosterone for Increased Sex Drive

Testosterone is known as “the male hormone”, but women do produce small amounts throughout their lives — about one-seventh the amount per day that men make. In women, testosterone is produced half in the ovaries and half in the adrenal glands. After menopause, testosterone production decreases gradually by one third of premenopausal levels (unlike estrogen production which decreases dramatically). In women who have had their ovaries removed, testosterone levels drop by half. Women on estrogen replacement therapy have further reduced testosterone production. In women, testosterone helps maintain muscle and bone mass and contributes to the libido (sex drive). Benefits of testosterone supplementation in women with “low testosterone” include increased bone mass; increased muscle mass; increased strength; increased libido; and improved quality of life. Side effects of testosterone in women include acne; increased facial hair growth; head hair loss; and decreased HDL (“good” cholesterol). Who may be a candidate for testosterone blood level testing? Menopausal women with complaints of decreased libido; women who have had their ovaries removed; women who have lost pituitary function (as a result of surgery or certain medical problems); and menopausal women with advanced osteoporosis.

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Q: What is estrogen?

A: Estrogen is the female sex hormone produced by the ovaries, responsible for the development of female sex characteristics. Estrogen is largely responsible for stimulating the uterine lining to thicken during the first half of the menstrual cycle in preparation for ovulation and possible pregnancy.

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Q: What is the difference between ERT and HRT?

A: ERT refers to estrogen replacement therapy , estrogen taken without a progestin, and is usually given only to women who have had a hysterectomy, in which their uterus was surgically removed. Doctors call the combination of estrogen and progestin hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Progestin is added to estrogen for women with a uterus, because if estrogen is given alone, it can sometimes cause excessive growth of the lining of the uterus. The risk of overgrowth is greatly decreased by adding progestin. Keep in mind, before menopause, progesterone was the hormone your body produced that was responsible for the monthly shedding of the uterine lining, which you experienced as your period. Taken with estrogen after menopause, progestin provides a similar benefit.

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Q: Is estrogen a useful treatment for women in their seventies or older?

A: Studies show that women who take estrogen for at least seven years between the onset of menopause and the age of 75 have a 50 percent reduction in risk of fractures. However, after age 75, the risk is about the same as for those who did not take estrogen at all. In the 75 years and older group, bone mass only differs by about two percent between women who have take estrogen for 10 years and those who have never taken it. Before beginning ERT, the benefits and consequences of the treatment should be weighed and discussed thoroughly with a health care provider.

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Q: What is progesterone?

A: Progesterone is an ovarian hormone secreted by the corpus luteum during the second half of the menstrual cycle. Progesterone helps prepare the endometrium to receive and nourish an embryo.

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Q: Will progesterone help with PMS?

A: The primary culprits causing PMS symptoms are a pattern of excessive estrogen or reduced progesterone levels during the two weeks before menstruation. Numerous studies have demonstrated benefits using supplemental progesterone. Be aware that PMS symptoms may also be caused by other factors such as reduced thyroid activity or adrenal exhaustion.

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Q: What happens during the perimenopausal period?

A: The pre- or perimenopausal time is characterized by fluctuations in estrogen production often coupled with decreases in progesterone production. These hormone fluctuations create symptoms that may include altered menstrual cycles, heavier flow or cramping, missed cycles, weight gain, depression, mood swings, hot flashes and night sweats.

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Q: If I have had a hysterectomy, do I still need progesterone?

A: Historically, progesterone was considered the “pregnancy hormone”, so many healthcare professionals felt it was not needed by a woman with no uterus. Now we know that progesterone plays many important roles in your body. Breast health, bone health, fluid balance, cognitive function, libido, and emotional stability all are influenced by progesterone. So, the absence of a uterus should not be a deciding factor when examining your need for progesterone.

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Thyroid Dysfunction

The most common type of thyroid disorder, hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) occurs when the thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone — hormones which influence essentially every organ, every tissue and every cell in the body. Hypothyroidism affects an estimated 11 million Americans, particularly women and the elderly.

In the U.S., the most common type of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s disease, a condition caused when the immune system produces killer lymphocytes that destroy the thyroid. As the damaged thyroid gland produces less thyroid hormones, the pituitary gland secretes more thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) to encourage the thyroid to work harder. This increased demand on the thyroid may cause it to enlarge, resulting in what is commonly known as a goiter. Antibodies are produced that serve as a diagnostic test for Autoimmune Disease.

Hyperthyroidism, a less common thyroid disorder, occurs when the thyroid gland becomes overactive and produces too much thyroid hormone. It affects approximately one to two million Americans, and is more prevalent among women, particularly those in their 30s and 40s. The most common form of this disorder is Graves’ disease, the illness that affected Olympic athlete Gail Devers and former First Lady Barbara Bush. The cause of Graves’ disease is unknown.

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Q: I’m 46 and still having regular menstrual periods, how would I know if I’m in perimenopause?

A: The hormonal changes of perimenopause often begin in your late 30s and early 40s. Your periods may not be affected until you get close to menopause, although you may notice changes in the frequency or amount of bleeding. Usually you’ll experience other discomforts first, such as anxiety, insomnia, hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, depression and heart palpitations. Keep in mind that even if you are not experiencing any problems, it’s likely that your hormones are changing.

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Q: What is menopause?

A: Menopause is defined as the cessation of menstruation for 12 consecutive months. This marks the end of a women’s reproductive years. Menopause occurs naturally around age 51.2 when the ovaries stop producing estrogen, or surgically at any age when the ovaries are removed.

Some of the symptoms are:

  • Irregular periods
  • Mood swings
  • Hot flashes
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Sleeplessness
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Dry skin
  • Depression
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Osteoporosis
  • Loss of libido
  • Hair loss

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The adrenal glands are orange-colored endocrine glands which are located on the top of both kidneys. The adrenal glands are triangular shaped and measure about one-half inch in height and 3 inches in length. Each gland consists of a medulla (the center of the gland) which is surrounded by the cortex . The medulla is responsible for producing epinephrine and norepinephrine (adrenaline). The adrenal cortex produces other hormones necessary for fluid and electrolyte (salt) balance in the body such as cortisone and aldosterone. The adrenal cortex also makes sex hormones but this only becomes important if overproduction is present.

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