Testosterone injections are injections of isolated testosterone. This hormone is present in both males and females, but the levels are naturally higher in males.
Testosterone therapy is becoming more common in the United States. Before recommending long-term testosterone therapy, doctors should make sure that the person understands and has weighed up the risks and benefits.
The following sections look at the uses of testosterone injections.
Treating low testosterone levels in males
Doctors may recommend testosterone injections to treat males with low testosterone levels. Low testosterone production by the testicles is called hypogonadism.
Low testosterone can have negative effects. The symptoms of low testosterone in males include a lower sperm count, a decrease in bone or muscle mass, increased body fat, and erectile dysfunction. Normal total testosterone levels in the bloodstream in healthy adult males are 280–1,100 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dl).
When treating hypogonadism, testosterone therapy can have the following benefits:
- improved sexual function
- increased lean muscle mass and strength
- improved mood
- better cognitive function
- possible reduction in osteoporosis
It is important to note that this therapy treats the symptoms of low testosterone rather than the underlying cause.
Anyone who suspects that they may have low testosterone can see a doctor for a diagnosis. However, the symptoms are quite general and could be due to other conditions or lifestyle factors.
Not all males with low testosterone will need treatment, and it is not always safe. The FDA have approved testosterone replacement therapy only for males with low testosterone due to disorders of the testicles, brain, or pituitary gland and not for natural age-related declines.
Testosterone therapy in females
Testosterone therapy is more controversial in females than in males.
Normal total testosterone levels in healthy adult females are 15–70 ng/dl. Low testosterone in females can cause fertility problems, irregular periods, vaginal dryness, and a low sex drive. Despite this, doctors do not often recommend testosterone injections to treat low testosterone in females, as they can have masculinizing effects.
However, doctors may recommend testosterone therapy to help with hypoactive sexual desire disorder in females after menopause. Research has not supported their use for other signs and symptoms that people may experience after menopause, which include anxiety, mood changes, weight gain, and reduced bone density.
Currently, the FDA have not approved any products for testosterone therapy in females. Additionally, in the USA, there are no readily available formulations that provide the recommended treatment dose of 300 micrograms per day for females. As a result, a female will typically need a compounding pharmacy to fill the prescription.
Masculinizing hormone therapy
Testosterone therapy allows people to develop a more masculine appearance. Transgender men, nonbinary people, and other individuals may choose to use testosterone injections as part of a gender transition. This use of testosterone injections is known as masculinizing hormone therapy.
Testosterone therapy helps a person develop male sexual characteristics and reduce female characteristics, and it can lead to any of the following changes:
- changes in emotional and social functioning
- growing more facial hair
- increased body hair
- increased acne
- a deeper voice
- a receding hairline with male pattern baldness
- changes in the location of body fat
- increases in muscle mass
- absence of menstrual periods
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