Steroids get a bad rap because of all the side effects that people have heard of developing in athletes who have abused anabolic steroids. AAS are very useful in the field of medicine and when used properly and under the supervision of a physician, the side effects can be minimal. However, even when used as a medication and not a performance enhancing drug, long term use of roids must be avoided as in this case the side effects are guaranteed. Moreover, the side effects and more importantly the effect of steroids is dose specific and there are risks involved even in using injections and needled frequently.
Common side effects of anabolic steroids
Anabolic steroids are synthetic compounds created to mimic the effects of hormone testosterone and its main function is to increase protein synthesis. As the dosage of steroids in performance enhancement is much larger than the doses administered for medicinal purposes, the side effects are much more noticeable in athletes and body builders. Most commonly, AAS can cause severe weight gain and bloating, increased blood pressure, increased levels of bad cholesterol, oily skin, acne and testicular atrophy.
As testosterone is a male sex hormone, it can cause female users to develop manly characters. It causes increased growth in body and facial hair, deepening of the voice, menstrual problems and infertility ion women. It also causes clitoral enlargement in women. Here s a look at their side effects on different parts of the body:
Face and eyes
Anabolic roids lead to increased water retention in the body or oedema causing the face to become round and chubby (moon face). It also causes oily skin and severe acne that can occur throughout the body and not just the face. Unfortunately, long term use of anabolic steroids can severely damage the eyes leading to the development of cataracts, glaucoma and infections.
One of the more visible side effects of steroid use is male pattern baldness and thinning of the hair on the scalp. This can occur even in women and the hair follicles start to shrink due to the steroids.
Perhaps the most embarrassing side effect of steroid usage in men is Gynocomastia(Gyno) or the formation of breasts in men. This is a common side effect and long term steroid use can cause breast tissue to develop around the nipples in men. Once Gynocomastia develops, it can be removed only with the help of surgeries. Surprisingly, the size of the breasts in women can actually decrease due to steroid use.
Steroids can be very stressful to the heart as it increases the blood pressure levels. It also causes bad cholesterol or HDL levels to rise and good cholesterol or LDL levels to lower. Build up of bad cholesterol can clog the blood vessels causing strokes. Increases blood pressure can increase the chances of blood clot formation in blood vessels, which can ultimately lead to heart attacks.
Many AAS are 17-alpha-alkylated to prevent them from excretion quickly but this can have severe effects on the liver. The liver is the organ that purifies the blood and removes toxins and long term steroid use often causes irreversible damage to the liver. Steroid use is known to cause liver cancers and a decrease in liver function. Oral steroids are particularly hard for the liver to metabolize and this impairs the liver’s ability to remove toxins properly and this results in Heptocellular Jaundice.
One guaranteed effect of steroid use is testicular atrophy. As the body is receiving testosterone and similar compounds from and external source, it stops producing testosterone in the body. This can lead to the shrinking of the testes, impotence and problems with erections.
The kidneys are responsible for removing impurities from the body and regulating the mineral and water levels in the body. As steroid use causes high blood pressure, the high pressure can damage the delicate vessels in the kidneys. Oral steroids have more severe effects on the kidneys and the kidneys need to work overtime to filter oral roids. As steroid use is often coupled with a high protein diet, kidney stones can form easily leading to blocked urinary tracts and urinary infections.
Side effects in adolescents
Use of anabolic steroids must be strictly avoided in adolescents. Steroid use can cause stunted growth as it stops the process that leads to bone lengthening. It also causes increased bone maturation and premature sexual development.
Psychiatric side effects
High levels of testosterone equal highly aggressive behavior. This can lead to violent outbursts, problems with anger management and an irritable mood. Steroid use also causes many psychotic syndromes like very high anxiety, depression, sudden feelings of euphoria, extreme mood swings, personality changes, etc.
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