Patch of testosterone may help revive women's sexual desire

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Indy Lifestyle Online

A small patch worn on the skin could provide hope for women who experience a loss of sexual desire at the menopause.

A small patch worn on the skin could provide hope for women who experience a loss of sexual desire at the menopause.

Doctors are testing the patch, which delivers a low dose of testosterone, in a study involving 22 research centres in Britain, Europe and Australia to establish whether the hormone can help revive the declining libido in middle age. Specialists believe huge stress is being imposed on couples who may have enjoyed a happy marriage in the past, but that the problem remains hiddenbecause of a taboo about discussing such intimate matters.

Although hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help with physical symptoms of the menopause such as hot flushes and has long-term benefits in preventing osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) it does not tackle the psychological symptoms such as the loss of desire. A woman's sexual drive is not dependent on oestrogen, the main constituent of HRT, but on the so-called male hormone, testosterone.

Professor David Purdie, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Hull Royal Infirmary and a leading member of the research team, said: "We had more volunteers than we could take, which makes me wonder if there is a huge iceberg of difficulty out there. I think there may be."

The problem is caused by the incompatibility of the sexual life cycles of men and women.

For the trial, which began last summer, 220 women who had had hysterectomies and oophorectomies (removal of the ovaries) triggering an early menopause were selected and half given the testosterone patch and half a dummy patch. Detailed questionnaires have recorded changes in their sex lives and the results will be known next year.

Professor Purdie said: "HRT treatment for the menopause can make women feel better but it does not often bring a solution for lost libido. Women come back saying they can sleep better and no longer have hot flushes but they still have a problem with lack of sexual desire."

The new patches, which have been tested in a small trial of 75 women in America and found to be effective, deliver a lower dose of the pure hormone, which is less likely to cause side-effects.