Wednesday Bubble: Hairs and acne and heart/breast conditions. Oh my!

Posted by on Apr 4, 2012 in sexual desire | 5 comments

Back in 2008, I wrote about Intrinsa, a testosterone patch that was tested in a study of 841 postmenopausal not currently on hormone replacement therapy to evaluate effects in terms of improving sexual desire. The results, which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that compared to a dummy patch, use of low or high dose Intrinsa was associated with significant increases in sexual desire and a decline in sexual distress. Overall, the higher dose patch led to modest improvements in sexual function. In other words, wearing a patch was significantly better than using nothing at all but not life-shattering in terms of improving sexual function.

Once I delved further into androgens and women, I learned that while it has been suggested that local circulating levels of androgens are associated with low sexual desire and sexual dysfunction, the data are contradictory. Moreover, in a fairly recent scientific review, researchers say that no single androgen predicts which women will have sexual dysfunction, making it even harder to address, right? What’s more, they also note that laboratory studies have only limited value and aren’t routinely recommended.

Still, researchers continue to evaluate the role (if any) of testosterone treatment in female sexual dysfunction; the latest study on the dockets is the BLISS trial, which is examining the long-term effects (i.e. 60 months)  of a low dose testosterone gel — LibiGel — in natural and surgically-induced menopausal women. This trial was requested by the FDA to insure that testosterone can be safely used without specifically causing heart disease or breast cancer ( note that the focus of this study is specifically on the risk for heart-related events, including death, nonfatal heart attack, nonfatal stroke, chest pain, and clotting events and death, and breast cancer). Importantly, researchers still don’t know much about the safety of long-term testosterone in either men or women, although it is a known precursor of estradiol, a hormone that has been shown to stimulate breast tissue. With regard to heart issues, women with polycystic ovarian syndrome have elevated blood testosterone levels and are at risk for obesity, high blood pressure and insulin resistance, all signs of heart disease.

Although questions about heart disease and breast cancer remain unanswered, experts have evaluated numerous formulations of androgens like testosterone, e.g. patches, oral tablets, implants and injections, and say that the major side effects are unwanted hair growth and acne. Both are related to dose and how long treatment lasts, and disappear once treatment is stopped. And while rates of hair growth are definitely lower for patches in general (as few as 7%  to as high as 23%), as many as 36% of women who use oral testosterone have unwanted hair growth. Among those receiving implants, pellets or injections the number is also high: 20%.

Let’s face it; the trouble is testosterone is that it may only address a miniscule amount of factors affecting a woman’s libido and in literally leave a trail in its place, not only of unwanted hair and blemishes, but perhaps more serious issues. What do you think? Is testosterone a hairy proposition? Should the bearded lady shave before her handler pushes more patches and gel?

Stay tuned…




  1. 4-4-2012

    Great blog! Congrat’s on being among the top 11 blogs selected by Healthline. Love the cartoon!

    • 4-4-2012

      I was planning on visiting all of them, including yours’. Thanks and back at cha!

  2. 4-10-2012

    Bearded lady…no joke. I am currently pursuing electrolysis related to a growth in chin hair and would almost give my right arm if I could find a better solution.

    • 4-11-2012

      Terri Have you seen an endocrinologist to have your hormone levels checked? Just a thought.

  3. 4-12-2012

    Hi Liz,

    They were being monitored by my gyn….the amount of chin hair really increased *after* starting HRT, (growly more slowly and not as coarse before beginning HRT). She indicated that I was estrogen dominant, so she lowered the dosage of my patch. I have since moved to a new town far from her office, so I need to find someone new. In the meantime, also debating whether to try Vaniqa or estriol topical cream (available from Canadian pharmacies)…. anyway, really appreciate your blog.

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