Important Side Effects of Steroid Use

teroids are man-made substances related to the male sex hormones, usually testosterone, which promote muscular growth and the development of male sexual characteristics. Steroid abuse is associated with a range of physical and emotional problems. These are categorized drugs, and when used inappropriately, they may cause severe, long lasting, and often irreversible negative health consequences. Following are some of the major consequences.

•  Inhibition of
Natural Hormones:
It is probably the most common side effect of steroid use. The exogenous addition of a hormone into the body results into the ceased production of the endogenous (body’s own) hormone by endocrine glands in order to maintain homeostasis. This leads to the ceased or no production of testosterone by the body.

•  Blood
Lipid Profile:
Steroids lower high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which is frequently known as good cholesterol, and raise low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. HDL is known to protect the arteries by bringing unused cholesterol to the liver where it is broken down while the LDL shows an effect opposite to that of HDL. Some steroids are very mild to blood lipids while some are quite harsh.

•  Gynocomastia : The development of breast tissue in males is called gynocomastia. It occurs due to excess of estrogen being present in the body produced through a process known as ‘aromatization’ in which androgens (testosterone like) are converted to estrogen. These estrogens goes to the receptors in the breast tissues and binds there which results in breast tissue development.

•  Cardiovascular
Steroids may lead to many cardiovascular complications which may arise due to their effect on blood lipids and also due to the fact that most of the steroid users have enlarged ventricles.

•  Liver
Steroids are known to exert profound adverse effects on the liver. The influence of steroids on liver function has been studied extensively and various clinical trials have reported that treatment with steroids may result in a decreased hepatic excretory function. In addition, intra hepatic cholestasis , reflected by itch and jaundice, and hepatic peliosis have been observed. Hepatic peliosis is a hemorrhagic cystic degeneration of the liver, which may lead to fibrosis and hypertension.

•  Masculinization: Excessive steroid use may lead to development of male characters in women, which may include characters like – development of a deeper voice, excessive growth of body hair, enlargement of external genitals to name a few.

•  Kidney
Kidneys are involved in filtration and excretion systems of the body and they need to work harder when they encounter a foreign substance, such as excessive synthetic steroids, in the body. As a result, steroid users may excrete very dark colored urine and may develop kidney associated complications in the long run.

•  Changes in the
Immune System:
Steroids may also affect the immune system. Some reports indicate that testosterone and certain analogues may possibly be immunosuppressive and might also be immuno-stimulating although no experimental data was found to substantiate this.

•  Sterility in
Males and Females:
Steroids may induce sterility, both in males as well as females. This occurs because of disruption of various hormonal levels in female which potentiate the ability to have regular menstrual cycles. In men, steroids lower follicle stimulating hormone to the point where normal production of sperm is not possible. However, the sterility caused by steroids is temporary.

•  Psychiatric
Steroid use is often accompanied by increased aggressiveness, violence, mania and even psychosis. It may also lead to increased sexual desire. Increased aggressiveness can be helpful in athletics training but may cause violence outside the gym or the track.

**This article is NEITHER meant to be an alternative to professional healthcare consultation NOR as a guide to self medication.


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