Testosterone functions

It used to be thought that testosterone was a hormone only for men, only made by men. With increased research, women have been demonstrated to have testosterone receptors, as well as normal production of testosterone by the ovaries. The adrenals are also able to convert other hormones and hormone precursors to testosterone, although in the absence of ovaries the quantity thus produced may not lead to effective circulating levels. Testosterone, like the other two ovarian hormones, is something of a two-edged blade. It has beneficial effects at normal levels, but when it is present in excess or in imbalance with respect to the other two hormones, the effects can be quite unpleasant if not unhealthy.

Testosterone actions

The primary thing we all think of with testosterone is its effect on libido. In fact, testosterone seems to be crucial to sexual arousal and orgasm, as well as interest in sex. Lack of testosterone is probably the cause of the cliché that with menopause one loses interest in sex (helped along by a little vaginal atrophy). There are many other factors that are involved in mature sexual response, however, so for women in surgical meno, it may not be the magical cure it is often touted as.

Testosterone enhances bone strength, density, and the ability of bone to repair itself.

It improves mood, and enhances feelings of well-being. In excess it can cause irritability or aggression, as well as excessive interest in NASCAR racing and scratching of…oh, you get the idea.

It builds muscle mass and thickens the skin.

Testosterone also counteracts the effects of estrogen in other masculinizing ways. They include male pattern baldness, acne, facial and chest hair growth, clitoral enlargement, central-body obesity (with its metabolic implications) and loss of the cardio-protective actions of estrogen. Because of the seriousness of these effects, testosterone can be the most dangerous of the three when taken to excessive levels.