The Side Effects of High Testosterone Levels in Men and Women
By Dr. Khanh Perrin
illustration of blood cells in vein

The ultimate goal of testosterone replacement therapy is to create a healthy level of testosterone in your body.

Unsurprisingly, this feat can, at times, be complicated.

While one form of therapy could be successful for a certain patient, that same form may create adverse side effects in another. It boils down to finding the treatment path that works best for you.

Typically, testosterone replacement therapy counteracts naturally low levels of testosterone in your body. But it’s important to remember that the opposite, high testosterone levels, could also cause unwanted side effects.

Though both genders are susceptible, some effects are reserved for one gender or the other.

Here are several of the most common side effects of high testosterone levels.

Thickening of the Blood

Polycythemia is an over production of red blood cell count. Although routine lab checkups are usually mandatory for those undergoing testosterone replacement therapy, it can get overlooked.

One compounding problem is that, when it comes to hemoglobin and hematocrit levels, the symptoms are frequently nonspecific.

Some symptoms include bruising easily, headaches, shortness of breath, and numbness in your extremities. This condition has been likened to your blood turning into sludge.  Affecting the old and young, the type of therapy and the dosage commonly determine how intense the issue is.

Sexual Dysfunction

Often coupled with testosterone replacement therapy, finasteride works to decrease the production of dihydrotestosterone. Mostly, this is used to counteract hair loss. However, the effects of this prescription on testosterone levels can also cause problems such erectile dysfunction.

In some cases, high testosterone levels display themselves similarly to low levels. For instance, some patients experience side effects like loss of libido and enlarged breasts. Men specifically may notice a reduced volume of ejaculate and suffer from erectile dysfunction.

Exacerbation of Sleep Apnea

For those already struggling with sleep apnea, high testosterone levels may worsen the problem. If you have identifiable risk factors for sleep apnea, you could see an onset of the issue as testosterone levels increase.

Rather than producing changes in your airwaves, high testosterone levels affect your nervous system. Thus, often resulting in issues such as sleep apnea.

The “Roller Coaster” Effect

For patients with no qualms about needles, injections are a popular form of testosterone replacement therapy. Injections obviously release a dose of the hormone all at once.

This treatment path can create what many call a “roller coaster” effect. Simply said, your hormones don’t stay at a regulated level. Rather, they elevate directly after the injection and then rapidly decline until the next injection.

It’s not uncommon for levels to bottom out and fall abnormally low right before a fresh dose of testosterone replacement. Other symptoms uncomfortably mirror this up and down effect.

Estrogen-Related Issues

Like a balancing scale, high testosterone levels mean higher estrogen levels. While fluctuating levels don’t often cause fluid retention, you should take them very seriously when they do. Fluid retention could be life-threatening for those dealing with congestive heart failure or renal insufficiency.

When your estrogen is at a high level, you may also see breast tenderness and swelling. On the contrary, it is important to be aware that aggressively lowering estrogen levels could increase the risk of osteoporosis.

If you’re reading to learn more about testosterone replacement therapy, please contact me. Together, we can review your hormone levels and pursue an appropriate treatment plan.