Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) is recommended for people who have testosterone deficiency. Scroll down to know about the side effects of this therapy.
Testosterone is a male sex hormone produced in large amounts by the testicles. The hormone is essential for proper sexual and reproductive function. Testosterone plays a crucial role in the development of male sexual characteristics. The hormone is important for maintaining bone growth and overall well-being.
Individuals with low testosterone levels in their blood need to undergo testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). As a person crosses 30 years of age, a natural decline in testosterone production starts and continues throughout life. This hormone replacement therapy comes in various forms. Each of these options listed below provide sufficient levels of testosterone to the body.
- Testosterone tablets or capsules.
- Intramuscular injections that are generally administered every two weeks; the hormone should be injected in a large muscle like the anterior thigh. Either a 200 mg injection is given every two weeks or 400 mg injections once a month
- Testosterone gels for the skin; the gels are applied daily to the upper arms, shoulders or abdomen.
- Testosterone skin patches are worn on the scrotum or elsewhere on the body.
A point to note here is that the medical fraternity does not recommend TRT for the treatment of age-related testosterone decline. Remember, TRT is lifelong and is usually advised for those diagnosed with hypogonadism. In hypogonadism, the testicles fail to produce sufficient testosterone. This can happen due to improper functioning of the testicles or because of the defective pituitary gland or the hypothalamus (part of the brain) that control the working of testicle.
TRT therapy may increase energy levels, allow you to gain muscle mass and even turn your sex switch ‘on’ but the flip side are some side effects that may occur after taking testosterone externally. They are mentioned below:
Fluid Retention: The problem of fluid accumulation is observed especially in older men. This may lead to leg or ankle swelling, worsening of congestive heart failure or high blood pressure.
Acne: Testosterone replacement therapy can cause and even worsen existing skin problems like acne. Testosterone regulates functioning of the sebaceous glands (located primarily under the facial skin) that produces oily matter (sebum) to keep the skin moist and prevent it from becoming dry. However, TRT can lead to sudden rise in testosterone levels, as a result of which the sebaceous glands may respond by producing surplus amount of sebum, making the skin oily. The excess sebum production may clog the pores and eventually cause acne.
Hair Loss: Receding hairline is also visible in men put on TRT. People with thick hair have complained about hair becoming noticeably thinner during the treatment. Studies have shown that excess amount of testosterone (which may occur with long term usage of TRT) can cause hair loss at the top of the head.
Liver Problems: People taking oral tablets of testosterone may suffer from liver complications such as liver toxicity. Although there have no cases of liver diseases associated with application of testosterone patches, people diagnosed with liver problems should avoid taking TRT in any form.
Sleep Apnea: This is a condition in which the breathing process repeatedly pauses and starts during sleep. An increase in testosterone levels in the body may worsen pre-existing sleep apnea.
Problems with Fertility: Spermatogenesis, also known as production of sperm depends on the amount of testosterone produced by the testes. So if this hormone is taken through supplements, the testes may no longer secrete their own testosterone. As a result, sperm production will stop completely or significantly. This effect may last for a specific duration or permanently affect the body. People who want to start a family should take this into consideration before opting for this therapy.
Enlargement of Breast Tissues: Some older men on testosterone therapy may experience breast development. This may be the result of testosterone converting into estrogen. Breast tissues in both men and women are sensitive to estrogen. To overcome this side effect, the doctor may advice decreasing the testosterone dose.
Increase in Red Blood Cells: People taking testosterone, especially in the form of injections or patches may show increased red blood cell concentration and hemoglobin levels which can increase the chances for strokes, heart attacks or minor clots in the veins.
Increase in Blood Pressure: Elevated blood pressure has also been observed in people put on TRT. For instance, those who use 5 mg of androgel (testosterone gel) do observe a significant rise in blood pressure. This means people who already have hypertension need to avoid any form of TRT.
Increase in Prostate Size: People with early prostate cancer should avoid this therapy as testosterone may promote growth of the prostate, thereby stimulating the cancerous growth. Even people who have a history of prostate cancer should not use testosterone therapy as it increases the volume of the prostate gland. Therefore before considering this therapy, one must undergo prostate screening for the early detection of prostate cancer.
Testosterone replacement therapy is a strict no-no for the treatment of sexual dysfunction in women. Be it testosterone tablets, creams or skin patches, none of them have received FDA approval. Testosterone levels in women are far less as compared to men. Hence, even a short course of TRT may raise testosterone to abnormally high levels. However, women suffering from testosterone deficiency post menopause may opt for compounded testosterone gels or creams after consulting a doctor. The compounded formula prescribed contains testosterone in miniscule amounts and hence its usage may help to resolve the issue.
Other side effects that can happen are as follows:
- Irritation of skin due to usage of testosterone patches
- Alterations in mood; increased aggression
Keep in mind that there is no substantial evidence that suggests TRT is effective for the treatment of age-related testosterone deficiency. Few from the medical field suggest use of bioidentical testosterone (hormones extracted from plants) instead of taking those that are synthetically made, to avoid side effects. However, many experts are of the opinion that bioidentical testosterone carry the same risks as that of synthetically prepared hormones.
In such a scenario, taking the help of natural testosterone boosters that work is the safest option with no negative impact on the quality of life. Eating zinc rich foods, cruciferous vegetables, following an exercise regimen to reduce excess fat and taking 7-8 hours of quality sleep can be helpful to increase testosterone in a healthy way.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.