The synthetic form of the male sex hormone testosterone is called steroid. Consequently, use of steroids may have a severe side effect on the reproductive system of both males and females and may affect fertility permanently. The use of any steroid can lead to anabolic (tissue building) and androgenic (masculinizing) effects.
More than 70 side effects of use of steroids have been identified so far. These side effects may range from liver cancer to acne. The areas of the human body most affected by steroids are the liver, the cardiovascular and the reproductive systems. Some side effects like heart attacks or strokes may not be recognized for a long time. On the other hand, side effects like stunted growth may even remain unnoticed.
Steroid is used either in tablet form or by injection. However, the use of injection forms of steroids involves the risk of infection in a case the needles are shared. Thus, it carries the risk of contracting AIDS.
Often steroids are taken by sports people to increase their performance or by occupational users like bouncers, security personnel etc. to increase their muscle size and strength.
Effect of Steroids Use on Male Fertility
Steroid use in men leads to enlargement of the prostrate gland and may increase the chances of prostrate cancer. Besides these, it may lead to accelerated male pattern hair loss. Since steroids are a synthetic form of testosterone, their effect on the reproductive system is obvious. Supra physiological elevations of testosterone are also the result of use of steroids.
Long time use of steroids in high doses results in hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism, along with reduced serum elevations of LH and FSH and testosterone.
Atrophy of the testes and decreased sperm cell production are caused by a moderate reduction in gonadotropin secretion. It has been reported that oligo, azoospermia and increased sperm cells have been identified in athletes, thus resulting in a decreased fertility.
Steroids cessation will make gonadal functions normal within few months. Also, changes in fertility that occur due to steroids use usually can be reversed within a few months. However, it may take some more time than usual in some cases.
Effects of Steroids Use in Female Fertility
In a normal female body, testosterones are produced in a small amount. Similar to males, synthetically elevated testosterones due to anabolic steroids use can affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. The production and release of LH and FSH gets hampered due to increase in circulating androgens.
Consequently, serum levels of LH, FSH, estrogens and progesterone are reduced. It may lead to follicle formation, ovulation and an irregular menstrual cycle. Other side effects of steroids use in females include increased sexual desire and clitoral hypertrophy.
However, steroids used by pregnant women may result in the slow growth of the female fetus. More adversely, it may even lead to fetal death.
Besides all these, if steroids are used during adolescence, then it may lead to stunted growth. The condition of acne gets worse with the use of steroids. Also, prolonged use may have long-term undesirable effects on fertility.