When people are diagnosed with testosterone deficiency, one of the first solutions traditionally recommended is testosterone replacement therapy or TRT. These hormone supplements introduce commercially-manufactured testosterone into a person’s system in order to make up for the deficiency. As such, they often serve as “quick fixes” for people who cannot wait for their endocrine system to right itself or get better again.
Unfortunately, TRT is not without its downsides. There are a great many possible side effects for it that can make it an unwise choice, especially over an extended period of time.
10 Common Testosterone Replacement Therapy Side Effects
As acne tends to be exacerbated by hormonal issues or excesses, it is no surprise that it should be on this list. Most of the side effects of testosterone replacement therapy actually do not stem from the fact that what is being introduced into the body is an exogenous (something originating from outside the body) chemical. Rather, the side effects typically come from an excess of that chemical, because the testosterone replacement dosages you get in this therapy cannot adjust as swiftly as your actual endocrine system would to stem a possible surfeit of a hormone.
#2 Male breast issues
Interestingly enough, TRT is capable of producing gynecomastia — female-shaped breasts on men. The swelling usually but not always goes accompanied by tenderness in the chest area.
This is more of a specific symptom: it happens to the people whose TRT takes the form of patches or gels. The itchiness is often restricted to the area around the place of application.
#4 Sleep problems
Just as lack of sleep has been indicated as a sign of low testosterone, problems with sleeping can often serve as signs that something is off with your TRT. A fair number of people undergoing this therapy report issues of staying asleep, sleep apnea and the like.
This is an ironic side effect given that a decent number of the people seeking TRT are actually men who are undergoing it as a quick fertility treatment. While TRT has been shown to help such men in some cases, it unfortunately also has the ability to wreck their chances at procreation. It seems to be a more marked side effect in younger therapy patients than older ones.
Testosterone metabolized by the body can be converted into DHT or dihydrotestosterone. This can cause balding when too much of it is present. Added to the balding is the possibility of prostatic growths.
#7 High RBC count
Also called erythrocytosis, this condition can be very dangerous because it means that there are more solid cells in the same volume of liquid plasma compared to before. Try filling a teacup with water, then adding three tablespoons of instant coffee powder to it. Then, without adding more water, add another three tablespoons. The result is a far thicker solution. The same thing, when it happens to our blood, is potentially lethal since it boosts the possibility of clotting, cardiac failure, enlargement of the spleen and other cardiovascular problems.
TRT has been associated with increased incidents of bloating among users. Some also report swelling in the ankles following treatment.
#9 Accidental testosterone supplementation
This side-effect is unique in the list since it refers to a side effect primarily experienced by another party, as opposed to the user of the TRT treatment himself. It typically happens with people who use topical TRT treatments like gels. When others accidentally touch the testosterone gel, they may absorb the hormone and experience undesirable and unhealthy (but typically temporary) surges in testosterone.
#10 Increased risk of various health problems
TRT has also been associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer development, strokes and cardiac events. The data is still insufficient to show any hard and fast conclusions, but there are already a number of studies indicating a correlation between TRT and these issues. For cardiac events or heart attacks, for instance, a study published in 2014 and done by the National Cancer Institute and UCLA showed a dramatically increased risk of heart attacks for men on TRT compared to men not on it.
What Are Your Alternatives?
Well, before anything else, you should ascertain that whatever symptoms or health issues you are having are in fact caused by low testosterone levels. The only real way to tell is if you get your blood tested — and at least twice, as testosterone levels regularly fluctuate. Most endocrinologists will tell you to get tests done in the morning (before 10AM) and on 2 different days to get a better feel for whether or not the first low reading was a fluke.
Now, if the medical consensus is that you are suffering a testosterone deficiency, you can talk to your doctor about natural alternatives that may help in lieu of TRT. There are food supplements and various programs that have been shown to have reasonable chances of effect in this area. There are even diets circulating that purport to boost testosterone levels healthily, like The Man Diet. These can spare you the worry of experiencing side effects like the ones listed above, as they focus on aiding your body in regaining its proper testosterone production efficiency.
That having been said, it is not as though TRT is completely useless. Some people have had good results with it. You simply want to be certain that you are in the best place for that. Are you likely to use it for a very short time? Are you free of issues like diabetes or heart disease or prostate cancer? Is it recommended for you by your doctor and at least one endocrinologist?
TRT can be useful, but it should not be treated as the cure-all for problems that may not always stem from testosterone deficiency — and it definitely should not be treated as something that works well for all patients. As with all medical solutions, you want to ascertain that it is the best route for you before you go down that road, or else you may end up with something worse than the symptoms you were getting TRT for.