Did you know that men start producing testosterone even before birth? This hormone starts manufacturing as early as seven weeks after conception; it is what forms the male genitals. Women also produce the ‘male’ hormone testosterone, but in very small quantities.1
There are many effects of the sex hormone testosterone on the body. It is produced in a man’s testicles and in small amounts in a woman’s ovaries. Some of it is also produced in the adrenal glands of both sexes. Testosterone has effects on behavior, brain, face, muscles and more, primarily in the male body. So naturally, an imbalance of testosterone levels, just like any other hormone, can lead to a bundle of problems.
Functions Of Testosterone
Since there are so many testosterone effects on the body, especially for men, it is important to understand the exact job description of this hormone. There is a surge in testosterone production during puberty and it peaks around 17 years of age in males. It is what changes the voice of a teenage boy, makes his muscles fill out, and stimulates his sex drive. In adult men, the hormone plays a role in maintaining muscle mass and strength, fat distribution, bone strength, red blood cell production, libido, and sperm production.2
In women, testosterone assists in the production of estrogen, the primary ‘female’ hormone. Estrogen is made from testosterone and other adrenal hormones. Simply put, no testosterone, no estrogen.3
What Happens When Testosterone Count Goes Down?
With testosterone contributing to so many functions, low levels can make things go haywire. Side effects of low testosterone in males (also known as hypogonadism) include reduced bone and muscle mass, increased body fat, flushing or hot flashes, swollen or tender breasts, low libido and erection issues. Depression, disturbed sleep, inability to concentrate, low self-confidence and fatigue are some other subtle signs of low testosterone.4
Low testosterone in males, also known as hypogonadism, often goes hand in hand with heart disease and impacts survival negatively.5
According to studies, prostate cancer is also linked to low levels of testosterone in males.6 Testosterone deficiency also puts men at risk for developing diabetes as low levels of this hormone are associated with insulin resistance.7
How About High Testosterone Level In The Body?
Testosterone injections and boosters are popular with athletes and bodybuilders for a reason. According to a study, when combined with strength training, high testosterone tends to increase fat-free mass and muscle size and strength in normal men. This, however, is possible only if they had proper nutrition through diet and exercised regularly.8
One of the side effects of high testosterone is reported to be enhanced aggression and angry outbursts. However, these beliefs remain controversial. According to a study, when normal men in a controlled setting were administered 600 mg of testosterone, there were no incidences of angry behavior. Nonetheless, the study also stated that still higher doses of multiple steroids might provoke angry behavior in men with preexisting psychopathology.9
Side Effects Of Testosterone Therapy
Testosterone levels start declining in his 30s and many feel that their energy levels and libido are on a slippery slope, too. Many American men end up using prescription testosterone gels and injections, but not everyone needs it. Experts suggest that in most males, testosterone levels are normal and only a lab test can tell you whether your symptoms are actually due to low testosterone.10
Testosterone replacement therapy for women is used in cases of sexual dysfunction, menopause, oophorectomy, low libido and the use of oral estrogens.11 Testosterone propionate is also used to treat certain breast cancers in women,12 though testosterone propionate side effects for men include a temporary anti-fertility action.13
Testosterone is available in the form of injections, boosters and supplements, transdermal gels and patches, implants or pellets and oral pills. There are, however, many side effects of synthetic as well as natural testosterone and one must tread with caution. Only those with a serious deficiency should opt for it.
Testosterone therapy is advised for the treatment of hypogonadism in men but it comes with many side effects.14
- Though popular and cost-effective, side effects of testosterone injections or shots include a “roller coaster” effect. It results in alternating periods of symptomatic benefit and a return to baseline symptoms, corresponding to the fluctuations in testosterone levels. It can also result in erythrocytosis, which is an absolute increase in red blood cells, and promote the risk of clotting.
- Testosterone can also be applied topically through patches, gels, and creams. It is by far one of the easiest and safest ways of absorbing the synthetic version of the hormone. Gels, in particular, are well-tolerated in comparison and mostly do not cause skin irritation. The only side effect of testosterone gels and creams is the inability to absorb the hormone through the skin in some people. For some, it can also result in skin reactions.
- Oral use of testosterone is largely not recommended unless the dose is minuscule. According to studies, it is toxic to the liver.
- Testosterone replacement therapy side effects also include some long-term risks. It can contribute to the development of sleep apnea and also lead to infertility during the course of therapy.
- There are mixed results of studies claiming that the side effects of testosterone therapy may include heart disease and increase the risk of prostate cancer. Just to be safe, the therapy is not advisable for those with pre-existing heart conditions and high risk for prostate cancer.15
Testosterone Booster Side Effects
Many testosterone booster supplements are out there and they are very popular with gym-obsessed fitness enthusiasts. While they may help you in getting closer to your dream body, anecdotal evidence points towards many side effects like skin reactions, sleep disturbances, anxiety and mood swings and infrequent urination. Long-term use could also affect your kidneys and have the same side effects as testosterone therapy.
|↑1, ↑2||Hormone Replacement, The Male Version. Harvard Health Publication.|
|↑3||Testosterone And Androgens In Women. Monash University.|
|↑4||Is Testosterone Therapy Safe? Harvard Health Publication|
|↑5||Malkin, Chris J., Peter J. Pugh, Paul D. Morris, Sonia Asif, T. Hugh Jones, and Kevin S. Channer. “Low serum testosterone and increased mortality in men with coronary heart disease.” Heart 96, no. 22 (2010): 1821-1825.|
|↑6||Morgentaler, Abraham, Carl O. Bruning, and William C. DeWolf. “Occult prostate cancer in men with low serum testosterone levels.” Jama 276, no. 23 (1996): 1904-1906.|
|↑7||Grossmann, Mathis, Merlin C. Thomas, Sianna Panagiotopoulos, Ken Sharpe, Richard J. MacIsaac, Sophie Clarke, Jeffrey D. Zajac, and George Jerums. “Low testosterone levels are common and associated with insulin resistance in men with diabetes.” The journal of clinical endocrinology & metabolism 93, no. 5 (2008): 1834-1840.|
|↑8||Bhasin, Shalender, Thomas W. Storer, Nancy Berman, Carlos Callegari, Brenda Clevenger, Jeffrey Phillips, Thomas J. Bunnell, Ray Tricker, Aida Shirazi, and Richard Casaburi. “The effects of supraphysiologic doses of testosterone on muscle size and strength in normal men.” N Engl j Med 1996, no. 335 (1996): 1-7.|
|↑9||Tricker, R., R. Casaburi, T. W. Storer, B. Clevenger, N. Berman, A. Shirazi, and S. Bhasin. “The effects of supraphysiological doses of testosterone on angry behavior in healthy eugonadal men–a clinical research center study.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 81, no. 10 (1996): 3754-3758.|
|↑10, ↑15||Is Testosterone Therapy Safe? Harvard Health Publication.|
|↑11||Bolour, S., and G. Braunstein. “Testosterone therapy in women: a review.” International journal of impotence research 17, no. 5 (2005): 399-408.|
|↑12||Fels, Eric. “Treatment of breast cancer with testosterone propionate.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 4, no. 3 (1944): 121-125.|
|↑13||Reddy, P. R. K., and J. M. Rao. “Reversible antifertility action of testosterone propionate in human males.” Contraception 5, no. 4 (1972): 295-301.|
|↑14||Rhoden, Ernani Luis, and Abraham Morgentaler. “Risks of Testosterone-Replacement Therapy and Recommendations for Monitoring.” N Engl J Med 350 (2004): 482-92.|