Millions of men around the world use anabolic steroids. An estimate has it that there are around three million users in America only. The majority of users are men, of course. The ability of the compounds to deliver benefits such as muscle growth and increased performance is a major draw.
Steroids have their safety issues, although many users don’t give much thought to them. One of the side effects that people often speak of is the shrinking of testicles. Is this something you need to worry about? Continue reading to find an answer to this question and more.
Will Steroids Really Cause Testicular Atrophy?
Regarding the question of whether steroids can cause testicular atrophy, the simple answer is yes.
The medical name for the condition of shrinking testicles is testicular atrophy. Steroid use is just one of the factors that could cause this phenomenon to occur.
And, yes, shrunken testicles are a rather common side effect among men who use anabolic steroids. Researchers found in a Welsh study that about 4 in every 10 men had testicular atrophy from using steroids.
Why Do Steroids Cause Testicles to Shrink?
The use of anabolic steroids leads to high levels of testosterone in the body. The reason for this is that the compounds are all synthetic offshoots of the male hormone. People, especially bodybuilders, and athletes, use them to enjoy effects similar to those of the natural substance.
But there is a problem. Excess amounts of testosterone lead the body to shut down production. This is a natural response to keep things in order.
A problem with reduced natural testosterone production, however, is that your testicles can suffer from it. Your body somewhat “assumes” they are no longer useful, so they start to shrink. Regular sex is not likely to help.
Can Steroid-Induced Shrunken Testicles Regain Normal Sizes?
Side effects from the use of drugs or substances often vanish when a person stops using them. The same is true for steroids, in most cases. Will atrophied testicles return to their former size when steroid use is stopped?
Steroids’ use pattern is a factor in whether damaged testicles will return to normal sizes. Doses and length of use determine to a great extent if they will regain, or get back close to, their original sizes.
Once steroid use is halted, natural testosterone production gradually resumes. The process is rather slow, but testicles may return to normal within a month.
However, when steroids were used for a long while, the testicles will require a longer time to recover.
Evidence from rat studies suggests, however, that testicles may not regain their original sizes. Experts say men who use steroids for a long time or take high doses are more likely to observe this, along with a low sperm count.
Steroid Use and Fertility
Another thing you may find disturbing about steroid use is that it may impact your ability to have a baby. We mentioned above something about its potential to reduce sperm count.
Researchers have actually found androgen-based drugs to be potent for preventing conception. These substances, which include steroids, shut down the natural production of sperm in the body.
Your testes have two main types of cells: Leydig and germ cells. The former secrete testosterone, while the latter produces sperm. Androgenic substances like steroids reduce the number of these cells. This action leads to low testosterone and low or no sperm count.
Essentially, you may not have to worry only about your testicles shrinking, but also about lower chances of having a baby as a result of steroid use.
What Can You Do to Keep Your Testicles from Shrinking?
Experienced steroid users often employ the help of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) to block unwanted side effects, such as shrunken testicles. The hormone is commonly used alongside steroids or between cycles. It mimics luteinizing hormone (LH), which affects the testes, and boosts the natural production of testosterone.
You can also get help in guarding against testicular atrophy by speaking with a professional. Endocrinologists can aid you in reaching your fitness or aesthetic goals without sacrificing so much in terms of your health. They will provide advice on the best steps to take to avoid things such as testicular atrophy or fertility issues.
Apart from endocrinologists, urologists are also among the professionals that may aid you in averting testicular atrophy.
Your best bet, obviously, will be to stay away from steroids. Once you start to use them, shrunken testicles are only one of the problems you may have to contend with along the way.