Can Steroids Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

Anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) have been used as performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) by athletes for decades. While steroids can boost athletic performance, they also have many negative side effects. Anabolic steroid use can cause sexual dysfunction, including erectile dysfunction (ED).

Key takeaways:

What are steroids?

First, let’s clear up any potential confusion over the term “steroid”. In medical terms, the word steroid can refer to certain anti-inflammatory drugs—such as the corticosteroid prednisone—or it can refer to drugs known as anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) or anabolic steroids. AAS drugs are synthetic derivatives of testosterone. These drugs have legitimate medical uses, including treating men with low testosterone levels. AAS drugs are controlled substances that require a prescription to obtain legally; using AAS as performance-enhancing drugs is considered abuse. Most competitive sports ban the use of AAS.

AAS come in different forms, including pills, injections, topical creams, and transdermal patches. Some commonly abused AAS include the following:

  • Anadrol (oxymetholone);
  • Anavar (oxandrolone);
  • Dianabol (methandienone);
  • Durabolin, Deca Durabolin (nandrolone);
  • Equipoise (boldenone);
  • Finajet (trenbolone);
  • Winstrol (stanozolol).

Do anabolic steroids work?

Yes, using anabolic steroids can increase lean body mass, increase muscle strength, improve endurance, increase sex drive, and can sometimes help you lose body fat. Anabolic steroids are used by weightlifters, bodybuilders, and other athletes to help them make rapid gains in strength and muscle mass.

While steroids can improve physical performance quickly, steroid use comes at a cost. Not only can they give you an unfair advantage in athletic competition, but they also cause a large number of serious side effects.

Negative effects of anabolic steroids

Anabolic steroid use can cause many different side effects throughout the body. The risk of side effects increases with the dose and the frequency that they are taken. When properly used under the guidance of a healthcare provider, the risk of side effects is low. However, people who abuse AAS as performance-enhancing drugs typically take much higher doses and often take them more frequently.

  • Sexual side effects. Shrinking testicles, increased risk of testicular cancer, gynecomastia (male breast growth), lowered sperm count, and erectile dysfunction;
  • Cardiovascular side effects. Increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and blood clots, increased LDL (bad cholesterol), and lowered HDL (good cholesterol);
  • Additional side effects for men. AAS can also cause male pattern baldness, acne, liver damage, increased aggression, and psychiatric symptoms.

In women, AAS abuse can cause a deepened voice, decreased breast size, hair loss, and increased body hair.

How do anabolic steroids harm the body?

Steroids are a type of hormone — chemical messengers used by the body to control metabolism and other functions. A healthy human body produces all of the hormones and steroids it needs to function properly. Adding additional steroids to the body for an extended period of time causes your body to make less of those steroids.

Taking AAS drugs for performance enhancement increases your testosterone levels above normal, but this can cause the body to stop making testosterone itself. This ultimately affects the levels of other hormones, leading to side effects that affect the entire body.

Are side effects of steroid abuse permanent?

Many common side effects of steroid abuse improve after stopping their use. However, it can take your body years to restore its normal hormonal balance. If you have taken steroids at high doses or for a long period, it will take longer for side effects to improve. After stopping AAS use, it may take 6 to 18 months for side effects to improve.

Research shows that some side effects of AAS abuse may be permanent in some people, namely damage to the heart and blood vessels. However, other research shows that heart damage is reversible after stopping AAS use. The key to preventing damage to your body is to stop abusing steroids.

Steroids are not worth the risk

Anabolic steroids are capable of rapidly and dramatically improving athletic performance and muscle mass. Unfortunately, steroid abuse can lead to a large number of possible side effects. The sexual side effects of AAS abuse are fairly mild. However, AAS abuse can cause serious, potentially life-threatening damage to the heart, blood vessels, liver, and other organs.

Steroids are a fast and effective way to boost physical performance, but the risk they pose far outweighs any temporary benefit from their use. Using anabolic steroids for anything other than their approved medical use is dangerous and illegal. If you currently abuse anabolic steroids, you should stop taking them and speak to a healthcare provider about ways to prevent serious long-term harm to your body.

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