How Steroids Affects Fertility?
- Published on August 12, 2022
What are steroids?
Steroids are artificially made drugs that act like substances produced by the human body. They usually contain a high dose of medication that may be targeted at a particular part of the body or taken systemically.
The term “steroids” is short for corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are used to treat conditions where there is inflammation or swelling. They are artificial drugs that resemble cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands.
While the term “steroids” typically refers to corticosteroids, it is also used to refer to anabolic steroids, which are artificial forms of the male sex hormone testosterone.
What are the types of steroids?
As mentioned earlier, the main types of steroids include corticosteroids and anabolic steroids:
Corticosteroids are mainly used to treat various inflammatory conditions. The different types of corticosteroids include cortisone, hydrocortisone, prednisone, and methylprednisolone.
– Anabolic steroids
Anabolic means “muscle-building”. Anabolic steroids are used to treat conditions relating to hormonal imbalance and deficiency. These are the drugs that are infamously misused by athletes to artificially improve their performance in sports.
What are the side effects of steroids?
Steroid treatment can often have various side effects on your body. It is advised to discuss the potential side effects and risks with your doctor.
The side effects of steroids differ based on the type of steroid use, the dosage, and the duration of treatment.
Corticosteroid side effects
Some of the common side effects of corticosteroid treatments include:
- Heightened appetite
- Muscle fatigue
- Increase in weight
- Blurry vision
- Mood swings
- Increased growth of body hair
- Puffy appearance on the face
- Nervousness and restlessness
- Troubled sleep or difficulty falling asleep
- High blood pressure
- Allergic responses
- Change in colour of the skin
- Increase in blood sugar levels
- Inflammatory bowel disease
Anabolic steroids’ side effects
Anabolic steroids have different side effects on men, women, and adolescents. Side effects for men are as follows:
- Fluid retention
- Shrinking of the testicles
- Lower sperm count
- Loss of hair leading to baldness
- Development of breasts in men
Anabolic steroids’ side effects for women include:
- Loss of hair leading to baldness
- Alterations in the menstrual cycle
- Deepening of the voice
- Growth of facial hair
Side effects of such steroids for adolescents include:
- Risk of not reaching full growth or height
- Reduced growth
What are the uses of steroids?
Steroid uses differ between corticosteroids and anabolic steroids.
Uses of corticosteroids
Corticosteroids work by reducing the immune system’s inflammatory response. They are used to treat different kinds of inflammatory conditions and diseases. They are also used to treat conditions related to the immune system or nervous system.
Some of the uses of such steroids include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis (inflammation of the joints)
- Inflammation of the blood vessels (systemic vasculitis)
- Inflammation of the muscles (myositis)
- Lupus (an autoimmune disease)
- Multiple sclerosis (a nervous system disorder)
- Skin conditions like eczema or skin rashes
- Certain types of cancer
- Psoriatic arthritis (arthritis that affects people with a skin condition called psoriasis)
- Sciatica (a nerve-induced pain that runs along the lower back and legs)
- Back pain
- Inflammation of the bursae, which are small fluid-filled sacs between bones, joints, and muscles (bursitis)
- Inflammation of the tendons (tendinitis)
Uses of anabolic steroids
While anabolic steroids are better known for how they are misused, they do have beneficial uses as a medical treatment.
They increase testosterone levels to help repair and build muscles. This is why bodybuilders often use them to build muscles. They are also helpful as steroid hormones.
The different uses of anabolic steroids include:
- Treating conditions of hormonal deficiency
- Treating delayed puberty
- Treating loss of muscle mass or lean body mass in persons suffering from cancer or AIDs
- Helping to speed up the recovery process for burn injuries
- Helping to treat breast cancer
- Helping to prevent osteoporosis
How do steroids work?
Steroids are helpful because they reduce the body’s immune response. In certain cases or side effects, suppressing the immune response can have a negative impact because it makes the body more vulnerable to infections.
However, it can help treat immune-related conditions like those listed above. Since steroids bring down the immune response, they are useful in bringing down inflammation.
Inflammation is a natural immune response of the body to injury or infection. However, chronic inflammation that occurs with inflammatory disorders is harmful to the body.
It can lead to various problems such as heart disease, arthritis, and even cancer. Steroids are a way to bring down this inflammatory response.
Steroids are also useful in treating autoimmune disorders. In these disorders, the immune system begins to attack the body’s cells by mistakenly identifying your cells as foreign. This can cause damage to the body tissues and also result in inflammation. Steroid treatment helps bring this reaction down.
Steroids help reduce swelling and pain around the joints, muscles, and bones. Steroid treatment may start working immediately, or it may take more time for it to take effect.
How are steroids taken?
Steroids can be taken in different forms. These include:
- Orally – tablets, capsules, or syrups are usually prescribed for chronic inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and lupus
- Nasal spray or inhalation – these are generally prescribed for asthma and nasal allergies
- Creams or ointments – these are prescribed for skin conditions.
- Injections – these are prescribed to treat muscle and joint inflammation and pain like tendinitis
A steroid injection is usually administered by a medical specialist. The injections can be targeted at different parts of the body. The different ways of administering steroid injections include:
- Directly into a joint (intra-articular injection)
- Into a muscle (intramuscular injection)
- Directly into the blood (intravenous injection)
- Into the soft tissue near the joint
- Into the spine
Corticosteroids and anabolic steroids can offer treatment for various conditions. However, they can also have side effects, so it is important to be aware of the risks involved.
The side effects may also include a negative impact on fertility among men and women. This is particularly the case with anabolic steroids because they intervene in the hormonal balance.
If you are taking steroid treatment and are concerned about your fertility, it’s a good idea to see a fertility specialist. For professional fertility testing, treatment, and care, visit Birla Fertility.
1. What is a natural steroid?
A natural steroid is a compound found in plants, herbs, and other natural sources that induce similar effects as human hormones or steroids.
2. How long can I take steroids?
Steroids should not be taken for too long to minimize negative side effects. The duration of treatment varies based on the dosage and the steroid. Make sure to follow the duration prescribed by your doctor and to complete the course of medication.
3. Why are steroids given?
Steroids are given to treat various conditions such as inflammation, autoimmune conditions, hormonal deficiency, delayed puberty, and muscle loss.
4. How long do steroids take to work?
Steroid treatment usually takes a few days to start showing effects. However, for certain treatments, it can start working within hours.
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Dr Prachi Benara
Dr Prachi Benara is a skilled infertility specialist with more than a decade of experience. Trained from some of the most premier institutes in the field in India which include Maulana Azad Medical College, BJ Medical College (Ahmedabad), PG Diploma in Reproductive and Sexual Health. She further trained in the United Kingdom to pursue her interest in Reproductive medicine and IVF. Her focus areas include advanced laparoscopic and hysteroscopic surgery, IVF, IUI, Frozen embryo transfer and correction of uterine anomalies including uterine septum to improve chances of pregnancy.
Over 11 years of experience
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