By Sarai Arrones BSc, MSc (embryologist).
Last Update: 12/05/2014

Nowadays, physical appearance has become one of the main worries and even an obsession, not only for women but also for men. Spending long hours at the gym has become something common for many people, as well as the aware or unaware consumption of anabolic steroids, which implies a risk and can have side effects that are unknown by the consumer.

There are some people in the fitness industry that turn to anabolic steroids to improve quickly their performance. These substances achieve a fast increase in the muscular mass. However, they don’t take into account that their consumption may damage several vital organs, apart from producing sterility.

Obtaining anabolic steroids

According to a study carried out by the University of Parma (Italy), steroids reduce testosterone hormonal levels, the size of the testicles and the number of spermatozoa, being able to produce azoospermia − the total absence of spermatozoa when ejaculating.

Another study performed on 21 patients at the General Hospital in Valencia proves that the consumptions of these substances can provoke hypogonadism (alteration in the sexual glands), different degrees of sexual dysfunction, and alterations in sexual desire.

Most of the anabolic steroids are synthetic derivatives of testosterone, such as nandrolone, stanozolol, mesterolone… These have an androgenic action (virilization) and an anabolic action that increases the growth of skeletal muscles and body mass.

Testosterone administration

Testosterone is a hormone produced by the testicles. If this hormone is supplied externally, the brain sends the order of stopping its production to the sexual glands and it won’t be necessary for the testicles to perform their function, i.e. the spermatogenesis. As a consequence, this organs will get atrophied, which will lead to a decrease in the spermatozoa production and may even provoke sterility.

Damage when consuming steroids

Sterility would be reversible, depending on the time of consumption and the the steroids were taken: orally, parenteral or combined. The recovery of fertility would imply stopping the consumption of these substances.

When people stop taking anabolic steroids, approximately 60% of the cases achieve normal values (15 million per milliliter) in the total count of spermatozoa. To this percentage should be added a 19% of people that achieve recovery through the administration of antiestrogens. Usually it takes between 6 and 9 months to get better after abandoning their consumption.

Even though the consumption of anabolic steroids is not that common in women, it also produces menstrual alterations or can even lead to the absence of the period. It also provokes the growth of facial hair, changes in the voice, increase in size of the clitoris, and alterations in sexual desire.

Even though their effects don’t last eternally, it doesn’t mean that they are not harmful for the organism. There are also some negative effects for the liver and kidneys, since when the concentration of blood testosterone increases, so does the filtration rate of the kidneys, which puts pressure on this organ. Another risk would be the deterioration of the organism, when the waiting times for their administration are not respected, which must be at least 15 days.

Authors and contributors

 Sarai Arrones
BSc, MSc
Bachelor's Degree in Biomedicine and Biomedical Sciences from the University of Valencia (UV). Master's Degree in Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction from the UV and the Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI). Specialist Training Course of gamete, embryo, and animal tissue cryopreservation. Embryologist specializing in the field of Assisted Procreation. More information