With news breaking about top athletes and their alleged steroid use, it’s a good time to review the difference between steroids and hormone therapy.
Steroid use most often involves high doses of testosterone, human growth hormones (HGH) and other drugs to artificially enhance their strength, build muscles and increase endurance. We’ve all read about bodybuilders using them, athletes who get caught “doping” or heard stories about “‘roid rage” but there is a huge difference between “steroid use” and testosterone replacement therapy. Most doctors would never advocate this type of steroid use, as it can have serious short- and long-term health consequences.
Here’s what you need to know: testosterone is a steroid hormone or androgen, and it’s essential to core metabolic functions in both men and women – so it’s not all just about sex. When functioning well, women’s bodies make approximately 60% estrogen and 40% testosterone, and men’s around 95% testosterone and 5% estrogen. As we age, testosterone levels decline, affecting mental clarity, glucose metabolism, fat burning, moods, libido, and for men, it can also begin to affect their ability to get or maintain an erection. Aging is not the only factor that can cause testosterone levels to drop. Medications like antidepressants and birth control pills and some health conditions can lower testosterone levels, so even young people can have imbalances.
There are many different ways to replace testosterone in the body, like gels, creams, patches, injectables, and pellets. While the delivery method will depend on a patient’s individual needs, we consider bio-identical pellet therapy the gold standard. A small pellet (about the size of a grain of rice) is implanted under the skin. It allows for a more even, individualized dosage without the spikes and lows that come with gels, creams and patches, and there are fewer side effects. Each implant lasts 3-4 months for women, and 4-6 months for men.
Whether you’re a man or a woman, hormone replacement therapy should always be done while under a doctor’s care, so don’t get caught up in the “As seen on TV” craze. If you think you have symptoms of low testosterone, get your levels properly tested by your doctor. If your levels are too low, you and your doctor can determine the right method of replacement for you.