Androgens in women

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


The role of androgen treatment in women remains controversial. The proposed "Female Androgen Insufficiency Syndrome" (Fertility and Sterility, April 2002) describes a number of non-specific symptoms including unexplained fatigue, decreased well being/dysphoric mood and/or blunted motivation and diminished sexual function. An estimated 40% of women experience sexual dysfunction, highlighting the need for ongoing research into this field in order to fully define the possible contribution of androgen insufficiency. The increasing availability of products, such as dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) supplements also points to the need for controlled studies to assess the safety of these and other preparations. Measurement of androgens in women requires sensitive assays with the ability to detect low levels and a narrow range with precision. Normal ranges of androgens for women of reproductive and post-reproductive age remain poorly defined. Debate exists as per importance of measurement of free versus total testosterone, with the 'free androgen index' offering an alternative method of assessment of testosterone availability. Testosterone treatment is being developed for women in the form of transdermal patches, gels or cream, with percutaneous implants in common usage in some countries. Recent research has highlighted alternative means of administration, such as oral inhalation or buccal lozenge. DHEA is widely available in some countries. Research to date has demonstrated improvements in libido and sexual function, mood and well being. Evidence points to other potential benefits of androgen treatment, including preservation of bone mass, a possible protective role in breast cancer and beneficial effects on cognition. Adverse effects of androgen treatment in women are dose-dependent and include virilisation, mood disturbance and acne. These are uncommon if appropriate doses are administered and highlight the need for treatment to be closely monitored clinically and biochemically. Beneficial effects of testosterone treatment in post-menopausal women with lowered androgen levels have been well documented, and preliminary evidence suggests a role for treatment in pre-menopausal women with symptoms and lowered testosterone levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-366
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Issue number2-5
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2003
Externally publishedYes

Cite this