Depo-Testosterone (testosterone injections) are widely used by men with low testosterone to treat symptoms like fatigue, sexual dysfunction, depressed mood, and decreased muscle mass. Unfortunately, recent studies indicate that Depo-Testosterone and other testosterone replacement products may increase the risk of pulmonary embolism (blood clots in the lungs).
Depo-Testosterone and Pulmonary Embolism
One of the most common side effects of Depo-Testosterone (testosterone cypionate) is an increase in the number of red blood cells. This has some positive effects — you may have more energy and your muscles might look better — but it can also have adverse effects, like blood clots in the legs. If the blood clots travel to the lungs, they can potentially cause a life-threatening pulmonary embolism.
Studies of Testosterone and Pulmonary Embolism
Evidence linking testosterone and pulmonary embolisms has been growing for years. One study, published in October 2011 by Dr. Charles Glueck and colleagues, described several cases of pulmonary embolism in men on testosterone — usually within 90 days of starting treatment. Many of the men had previously-undiagnosed genetic risk-factors for blood clotting.
Overview: Pulmonary Embolism
Pulmonary embolism is a blockage of an artery in the lungs. The most common cause of the blockage is a blood clot that travels from the legs. This type of blood clot is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). The combination of DVT and a pulmonary embolism is sometimes called a venous thromboembolism (VTE)>
Symptoms of a pulmonary embolism, according to the National Institute of Health:
- Chest pain: Occurs under the breastbone or on the side, most often feels sharp of stabbing, but may feel like burning, aching, heavy, or dull sensation. May cause you to bend over and hold your breath.
- Cough (may contain bloody mucous)
- Fast breathing
- Fast heart rate
- Blue-gray skin color (cyanosis)
- Clammy skin
- Dizziness or fainting
A pulmonary embolism is a life-threatening medical emergency that often requires hospitalization. You may be given oxygen and an intravenous (IV) “clot-busting” drug. Doctors may also prescribe an oral blood-thinning drug to prevent new blood clots from forming. For patients who cannot tolerate blood-thinners, a device called an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter may be implanted to catch blood clots before they enter the lungs.
Resources & Additional Info
- Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and Pulmonary Embolism (PE) — 3D Medical Animation on YouTube
- Pulmonary Embolism Definition, Symptoms, Causes, Etc. — Mayo Clinic