While men put in a lot of effort to achieve ideal body/physique, they sometimes consume certain supplements or even steroids which helps induce muscle growth and strength but while maintaining physical strength and ensuring an increase in muscle mass, men do not realise that the testosterone they take to improve their appearance can adversely affect their fertility and overall health. According to health experts, when men use steroids to increase testosterone levels to build muscle strength, it can result in low sperm counts or even the absence of sperm.
Men often feel the pressure to maintain their physical appearance or achieve a certain level of fitness hence, they resort to the consumption of products like steroids which helps them attain the desired outcome of achieving muscle mass but in these situations, men fail to realize that the consumption of steroids harms a man’s sperm health leading to fertility issues. Male infertility is an extremely sensitive issue for men to accept and for men, complications in fertility can be an unpleasant surprise which may result in increased stress levels and relationship strain due to the frustration of not being able to have a child.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Anindita Singh, Fertility Consultant at Nova IVF Fertility in Kolkata, revealed, “While analysing the primary reasons behind infertility, it is observed that certain supplements especially anabolic steroids can cause fertility issues. Steroids are synthetic supplements or versions of testosterone which help enhance strength and muscle growth among men. Steroids that are consumed to promote muscle growth can lower sperm count or even result in the overall absence of sperm which shrinks the male testicles.”
She highlighted, “However, the adverse impact on sperm health due to the consumption of steroids can be treated depending upon the time duration. When the person stops using steroids, it takes approximately three months for the sperm count to recover. In cases where men have used steroids for a long period, the recovery duration may take a longer time, approximately a year or more. Besides male infertility issues, steroids can pose several other health issues ranging from acne, breast development, liver problems, heart attack, or stroke which may be irreversible.”
Dr Priyanka Reddy, Consultant – Infertility Specialist at Motherhood Hospitals in Bangalore’s HRBR Layout, shared how steroids affect the male reproductive system:
- While consuming steroids brain is tricked to assume that the body is producing the necessary amount of testosterone.
- When the brain thinks it further signals the testicles to slow or even completely stop the production of sperm.
- This confusion leads to lower sperm count levels or even the absence of sperm in some cases. The low levels of sperm even cause the testicles to shrink causing male infertility.
She asserted that besides fertility, other major adverse effects of steroids can result in side effects in the body’s system which may cause permanent damage namely-
- Cardiovascular system: Besides testosterone, steroids can increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels and decrease high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels, which contribute to high blood pressure, blood clots, heart attacks, and stroke.
- Endocrine system: Use of steroids can cause hormonal imbalance which hampers fertility and sperm production along with disruption of bodily functions like enlarged breast tissue, shrinking of testicles, baldness along with severe acne, cysts, and in severe cases testicular cancer.
- Muscular and skeletal system: In adults, the use of steroids may result in stiff tendons which may trigger the risk of tendon injury whereas in adolescents, the use of steroids can result in stunted growth.
Insisting that use of testosterone should be administered by a physician, Dr Anindita Singh said, “The use of testosterone is appropriate only when it is prescribed and administered under the supervision of a reliable physician. In cases where men have low testosterone levels, a physician prescribes hormone-regulating medications which help create adequate levels of testosterone without affecting the fertility level of a man. While taking steroids to improve strength and muscle mass, a man must exercise caution and be aware of the consequences of using steroids on their fertility health along with the risks that cause an impact on both the short- and long-term health of an individual.”
Talking about how the production of sperm levels can be recovered, Dr Priyanka Reddy said, “Recovery of sperm production depends on how long the man has been consuming steroids which increases testosterone levels. The amount of damage in sperm production depends on the amount of dose undertaken as well. If the dose is in fewer quantities for a while, the production of sperm resumes within three months however if the dose is in larger quantities for a longer period, then, the recovery rate takes longer. Before taking any supplement or drug which assures increased muscle mass, energy, or libido, it is important to consult a doctor to recognise the reproductive risks associated with the use of the supplements.”