The SIDE EFFECTS of STEROIDS.
Athletes face fierce competition for just reaching the finals and do everything in their capacity to win. Besides money and sponsorships, athletes drive to succeed is also fueled by personal satisfaction. Almost all athletes in competitive sports use steroids or performance-enhancing drugs called anabolic-androgenic steroids. These steroids help them perform better at their sport and gain a competitive edge. Some steroids are injectables, and some come in topical creams and gels, while others are oral. All steroids are prescription drugs and can legally be given only by a qualified medical practitioner. Steroid abuse is generally associated with mild to potentially life-threatening side effects. This article highlights the most common mild to serious side effects of steroids or performance-enhancing drugs. So, let's read on to find out the side effects of steroids.
Note: In this article, steroids strictly refers to performance-enhancing drugs.
While some steroid side effects are gender-specific, others are common. So, let's first look at the prominent gender-specific side effects of steroids followed by the common side effects.
Gender-specific Side Effects of Steroids in MEN:
Steroid abuse is known to act as male birth control and cause infertility by reducing the sperm count and quality. It happens because the brain shuts down the testicles due to excess testosterone. A side effect of this is that the sperm count & quality drop. Although, in most cases, 4 to 12 months after cessation of anabolic steroid abuse, the quality of sperm tends to normalise. However, for long term steroid abuse cases, it may take more than a year for the sperm quality to return to normal.
Read more on steroid abuse and infertility here: Anabolic steroids abuse and male infertility.
Gynecomastia, also called man boobs, is a condition that increases the amount of breast gland tissue in men or boys. Hormonal imbalance stemming from steroid abuse can cause gynecomastia. For example, specific steroids like Dianabol and Anadrol convert to estrogen in the body. Months of taking such steroids can lead to steroid side effects like gynecomastia. Severe or persistent cases of gynecomastia may require surgical intervention.
Read more on steroid abuse and gynecomastia here: Anabolic steroids and gynecomastia.
#3 TESTICULAR ATROPHY:
Steroid abuse disrupts the hormonal balance in our bodies. Our brain shuts down the testicle functions as there is excess testosterone in the body. As a result, the testicles don't have much work to do and shrink in size. Atrophied testicles can't produce sufficient sperm, and hence the sperm count also goes down.
Read more on steroid abuse and testicular atrophy: Why do athletes develop testicular atrophy and how to reverse it?
#4 PROSTATE ENLARGEMENT:
Serum testosterone levels influence the prostate. In addition, steroids side effects cause morphological changes to the prostate tissue resulting in functional changes and disease of the prostate.
Read more on steroid abuse and prostrate here: The prostate after administration of anabolic androgenic steroids.
Gender-specific Side Effects of Steroids in WOMEN:
#1 CLITORAL HYPERTROPHY:
Clitoral hypertrophy is the abnormal enlargement of the clitoris. Women who abuse steroids are known to suffer from clitoral hypertrophy. In almost all cases, clitoral hypertrophy caused due to side effects of steroids is permanent, non-reversible and may eventually lead to low self-esteem.
#2 BODY HAIR INCREASE:
All anabolic steroids are also androgenic. Due to the side effects of steroids, androgenic drugs cause the development of male-like characteristics, including increased body hair. Although different techniques can help manage the increased body hair and facial hair, they may lead to low self-esteem and affect social life.
#3 INFREQUENT/ ABSENT PERIODS:
Steroid abuse disrupts the hormonal balance. Due to the side effects of steroids, excess androgenic hormones and low estrogen levels disrupt the normal menstrual cycle leading to infrequent periods. In severe cases, it leads to total absence from periods.
Several reports show that anabolic steroid abuse by women leads to baldness.
#5 MALE-LIKE DEEPER VOICE:
All anabolic steroids are also androgenic. Hence, long term steroid abuse leads to side effects like developing male-like characteristics like a deeper voice. In almost all cases, a deepened voice due to steroid abuse is non-reversible. Like other side effects, a deeper voice may lead to low self-esteem and confidence.
Common Side Effects of Steroids in both MEN and WOMEN:
Other than the gender-specific side effects of steroids, several other reported side effects occur in men and women. While some are mild, others are potentially life-threatening. Some of the reported side effects are:
Stunted growth in adolescents.
Increased low-density lipoproteins.
Decreased high-density lipoproteins.
Addiction to steroids.
We hope the article has helped you understand the side effects of steroids.