It goes without saying that testosterone is a powerful hormone with many effects on the human body. Some of these effects are desirable, like increased muscle mass, but some are downright undesirable. The trick is to avoid the undesirable side effects while benefiting from the desirable ones.
For years, testosterone treatment has been touted as a kind of cure-all. Just type testosterone into Google and you will have many ads urging the uninitiated to start treatment. Unfortunately, misuse of testosterone treatment is rampant, and often based on erroneous or misleading “levels.” Many practitioners use unreliable testosterone levels (like saliva testosterone, or even blood testosterone levels) to “prove” that a patient “needs” more testosterone. The Endocrine Society and other medical organizations even came out with a position statement in 2010 warning patients to beware of this sort of practice!1,2,3,4,5 Results from the same sample, using the same testing method can vary up to as much as 6 times!6
Now there are even more reasons to be cautious. The FDA recently issued a class-wide safety alert for all testosterone-containing medical products. Not only is it associated with abuse and dependence, but it can have “serious adverse outcomes include heart attack, heart failure, stroke, depression, hostility, aggression, liver toxicity, and male infertility. Individuals abusing high doses of testosterone have also reported withdrawal symptoms, such as depression, fatigue, irritability, loss of appetite, decreased libido, and insomnia.”7
So, as a patient, you have to ask yourself if the risks are worth the benefit. Hair loss is a known side effect of testosterone therapy. Even in women who supplement with testosterone (either for bodybuilding or sex drive or other effects) can find themselves developing male pattern hair loss. So from a hair loss perspective, exogenous (i.e. “taken outside”) testosterone therapy, even in small doses, is not advisable.
- Rosner W and Vesper H on behalf of The Endocrine Society and endorsing organizations. Toward Excellence in Testosterone Testing: A Consensus Statement. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010, 95(10):4542–4548
- Standardizing Hormone Measurements. National Center for Environmental Health Division of Laboratory Sciences. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov/labstandards/hs.html
- Rosner W, Auchus R, Azziz R, Sluss P, Raff H. Utility, Limitations, and Pitfalls in Measuring Testosterone: An Endocrine Society Position Statement J Clin Endocrinol Metab2007. 92(2):405–413.
- Vesper H, Botelho J. Testosterone .An Overview of CDC’s Standardization Initiative. Clin Lab News. June 2012: Volume 38, Number 6
- CDC HoSt- Testosterone Certified Procedures (UPDATED 05/2012)