Testosterone Replacement Therapy & Its Side Effects: The Ultimate Guide
Are you considering Testosterone Replacement Therapy to feel more vigorous and younger as you age? If so, you should be aware of the risks that come with it before going on board.
Also known as TRT, Testosterone Replacement Therapy is quite popular among men with reduced testosterone. Moreover, it’s said to help improve sex drive, energy levels, and mood.1 While TRT might seem like a miracle formula for anti-aging, it isn’t clear what health benefits it offers in terms of the age-related drop in testosterone.2
Moreover, much like any other treatment, testosterone therapy can have adverse side effects and without knowing much about it, you shouldn’t risk your health. Only men with symptoms such as low blood levels and testosterone levels should consider TRT.3 If you wish to know if it’s right for you, you should consult your doctor.
Because it’s important to learn about the risks associated with a particular treatment before trying it, this article will serve as a guide to help you understand every essential thing about TRT and the dangers of using it. So, let’s begin with the basics.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy: What Is It?
TRT or testosterone replacement therapy and sometimes known as androgen replacement therapy is primarily used for treating low T(testosterone) levels, which may occur due to a medical condition or aging.
Nonetheless, it’s being widely used for non-medical purposes, which include:
- Building muscle mass
- Boosting energy levels
- Enhancing sexual performance
Some research reports that using TRT might in fact help you in achieving these goals. However, it does have a lot of caveats (which we shall focus on later).
TRT: What Is It Used For?
Traditionally, TRT is used for treating hypogonadism, which refers to a condition where your testes fail to produce enough testosterone. Basically, there are 2 types of hypogonadism4, namely:
- Primary hypogonadism: This occurs when your T level drops due to some complications with your testes or gonads. Here, even though your brain may signal your gonads to make T, they can’t produce them.
- Secondary hypogonadism: Here, low T occurs due to problems in your pituitary gland( a tiny pea-sized gland that’s responsible for regulating key body functions & general wellbeing).
TRT helps by making up for the lack of T production resulting from complications with your testes. If you’re really using it for treating hypogonadism, TRT can help:
- Boost other hormone levels that interact with testosterone, including prolactin.
- Increase your sperm volume and count.
- Enhance your sexual function5
Besides these, TRT can further help in balancing abnormal T levels resulting from:
- Sex organ surgeries
- Radiation therapy
- Undescended testicles
- Infections that affect your sex organs
- Genetic disorders
Who Should Avoid TRT?
As per the Endocrine Society’s guidelines, if you have breast cancer or prostate cancer, you should avoid TRT.
Aside from that, your doctor may also suggest avoiding the treatment if you the following conditions6:
- Abnormal levels of red blood cells
- Congestive heart failure - a condition where your heart fails to pump as much as your body needs.
- Symptoms of serious lower urinary tract-urinary urgency and frequency, associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia or an enlarged prostate.
- Obstructive sleep apnea - a condition where your airway is closed or narrowed and breathing gets cut off momentarily.
Additionally, TRT is not recommended for treating low T caused by aging.
What Are The Risks Associated With TRT?
Just like any treatment, there are some risks involved in using TRT. Most side effects pertaining to TRT include irritation, rash, or itching in areas where the treatment has been applied.
Also, there is some evidence where TRT use has been associated with an increased risk of stroke or heart attack. According to experts, the long-term benefits and risks of TRT are unknown since large clinical trials haven’t been done yet.7
Nonetheless, experts believe that TRT use can further aggravate certain health conditions, they include:
- Congestive heart failure: If you have congestive heart failure, TRT use can further aggravate the condition.
- Blood clots: Polycythemia is another common side effect associated with testosterone therapy. It causes an increase in the body’s production of hematocrit(red blood cell volume) and hemoglobin, thereby affecting your blood cells. Consequently, it can lead to high blood pressure and a slight thickening of the blood.8
- Sleep apnea: TRT use can also worsen this condition.
- Prostate cancer: Testosterone stimulates the growth of prostate cancer. Most experts recommend getting screened for prostate cancer prior to the treatment. If you have elevated PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) or prostate cancer, you should probably avoid testosterone therapy.9
- Benign prostatic hypertrophy: Testosterone stimulates your prostate to grow naturally. Also, your prostate grows larger as you age, which causes difficulty urinating. This occurs because enlarged prostate squeezes the tube that carries urine. This condition can get worse if you use TRT.
Aside from these side effects, TRT has also been known to shut down the body’s natural production of testosterone. As such. It stops your hormone-producing cells to work and your testicles start to soften and shrink.10 This means you’ll need to keep taking TRT for the rest of your life.
Testosterone therapy is also known to cause infertility. This is because the treatment can lead to a decline in sperm counts since it also reduces the FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) level, which is responsible for sperm production.11
All these shows why it’s best to avoid TRT and if needed, only go for a natural testosterone solution. Besides, there are several ways to boost your T levels naturally. All that said, always consult your doctor before considering any testosterone boosters as he/she’ll know best what’s right for you.
This concludes our guide on testosterone replacement therapy and its side effects. We hope that this article has enriched you with valuable information regarding the treatment.
TRT has been around for quite some time and has been widely used by men for treating hypogonadism or problems related to low T production. However, it does come with various side effects. Without any underlying medical condition, you shouldn’t use TRT. Instead, you should opt for ways to boost your testosterone naturally.