Skip Navigation LinksHome > September/October 2010 - Volume 17 - Issue 5 > Role of androgens in women's sexual dysfunction
doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e3181d59765

Role of androgens in women's sexual dysfunction

Basson, Rosemary MD, FRCP(UK)1; Brotto, Lori A. PhD2; Petkau, A. John PhD3; Labrie, Fernand MD, PhD4

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Objective: Although suspected, androgen deficit in women with sexual dysfunction has never been established. Given that serum testosterone levels are of limited value, we sought to compare total androgen activity in women with and without hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). Intracellular production in target tissues is the major source of testosterone in older women and can now be measured. Androgen metabolites, specifically androsterone glucuronide (ADT-G), reflect intracellular and ovarian sources of testosterone. Thus, we predicted significantly lowered levels of metabolites in women with sexual dysfunction.

Methods: A detailed assessment of the sexual function of women without depression, without serious relationship discord, or receiving medications affecting sexual function included 121 women with HSDD and 124 sexually healthy community controls. Sexual function was assessed using structured interviews, validated questionnaires, and steroid analysis-mass spectrometry levels of ADT-G, testosterone, and precursor hormones.

Results: No group differences in serum levels of testosterone or ADT-G were found. Significantly lower levels of two precursor hormones, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate and androstene-3β,17β-diol, were found in women with sexual dysfunction (P = 0.006 and P = 0.020, respectively). The variability of metabolite and precursor levels was substantial for all women.

Conclusions: Significantly lower levels of the two precursor steroids dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate and androstene-3β,17β-diol but not the major androgen metabolite ADT-G were found in women with HSDD. Although the significance of the former awaits further study, androgen deficiency in women with HSDD was not confirmed. Given the unknown long-term effects of testosterone supplementation, women receiving testosterone therapy should be informed that a deficit of testosterone activity in women with HSDD has not been identified.

©2010The North American Menopause Society


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