Anabolic steroids belong to a class of drugs called androgens, which are compounds that act similarly to testosterone.
Also known as anabolic-androgenic steroids these drugs are prescribed for the treatment of various conditions, including hormone imbalances and muscle loss.
Unfortunately, they are often abused by athletes and others trying to increase muscle mass quickly.
Testosterone is an important androgen in the human body. Effects of androgens are most evident during puberty like voice changing or pubic and body hair growing.
It is naturally produced in the testicle, where its primary role is to help with the development of sperm.
When the testosterone levels fall, the body responds by producing both luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulation hormone (FSH). LH acts on the testes to produce more testosterone, while FSH triggers sperm production.
Eventually, the levels rise again, shutting off the supply of LH and FSH.
Artificially increasing blood testosterone to ultra-high levels causes the body to build more muscle fibres, but it also tells the brain that the body is producing too much testosterone and it attempts to correct it by shutting down its production in the testicles.
When this happens, the amount of testosterone in the testicles is extremely low, despite normal or very high levels in the bloodstream. The combination causes the testicles to shrink and to produce small if any quantity of sperm.
In addition to lowering sperm counts, steroid abuse can actually make the testicles shrink.
It can also cause erectile dysfunction.
Is the damage permanent?
Form some steroid users, sperm production never recovers, despite the use of fertility drugs.
The problem is not necessarily confined to long-term users, but the higher the dose and the longer the use; the more likely there will be sustained or permanent infertility.
How can I check my fertility?
If you or someone you know is worried about the impact of steroids or other lifestyle choices on fertility, we can offer advice and fertility testing.