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Anabolic steroids and endocrine effects

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

Authoring team

  • suppression of spermatogenesis and gynecomastia are frequent consequences of androgen use
    • high doses of anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) suppress the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis due to negative feedback, and it may take weeks or months (sometimes longer) for the axis to recover

      • atrophy of the seminiferous tubules during this time may result in subfertility/infertility

      • even after discontinuation of AAS, subjects may continue to encounter symptoms of hypogonadism (low libido, erectile dysfunction, and low vitality) until the axis recovers
        • although no randomized trials exist, anecdotal reports suggest that use of clomiphene citrate may hasten the recovery of the gonadal axis

      • gynecomastia is also seen in athletes using AAS, specifically aromatizable androgens e.g. testosterone
        • a proportion of testosterone is converted by aromatization to oestradiol (an endogenous oestrogen) in males - however with supraphysiological amounts of testosterone then the levels of oestradiol are also increased to supraphysiological levels
        • many athletes resort to off-label use of tamoxifen (oestrogen receptor antagonist) and aromatase inhibitors to circumvent this side effect

      • women using AAS experience the usual adverse effects of hyperandrogenism such as breast atrophy, irregular menses, hirsutism, male-pattern baldness, hoarse voice, and clitoromegaly


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