Testosterone therapy increases the risk of blood clots in the legs, which can break off and get stuck in the lungs. This life-threatening condition is known as a pulmonary embolism.
Testosterone and Pulmonary Embolism
Testosterone therapy was originally approved for the treatment of hypogonadism, a medical condition in which the testicles do not produce testosterone. Although millions of men use testosterone therapy, less than half actually have hypogonadism or missing testicles. Instead, they use testosterone to treat normal aspects of aging — decreased energy, flagging libido, sagging muscles, and more.
The problem is that many men on testosterone therapy are not aware that pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs) is a potential side effect. In many cases, the risk of this side effect outweighs any benefit of treating “Low T.”
Studies of Testosterone Therapy and Pulmonary Embolism
October 2011 — A study published in the journal Translational Research has found that testosterone therapy increases the risk of blood clots and pulmonary embolism. The blood clots occurred in as little as one month, and within 6 months on average.
The author of the study, Dr. Charles Glueck, reported that multiple cases of pulmonary embolism occurred in patients with previously undiagnosed genetic risk-factors, such as high Factor VIII and Factor V Leiden (estimated to affect 5% of men). These mutations cause testosterone to be converted into estradiol (estrogen), a female hormone that is associated with a significant increased risk of blood clotting and pulmonary embolism.
What is a Pulmonary Embolism?
A pulmonary embolism is a life-threatening medical emergency that occurs when a blood clot obstructs a blood vessel in the lungs. Pulmonary embolisms starve the body of oxygen, which can cause severe brain damage or even death. Pulmonary embolisms are usually caused when blood clots in the lower body break loose and travel to the heart and lungs — a condition known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Signs & symptoms of a pulmonary embolism:
- Blood clots
- Chest pain (sudden, sharp pain that gets worse with deep breathing)
- Shortness of breath or rapid breathing
- Coughing (may be bloody)
- Bluish skin discoloration
- Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
- Swelling of the leg
- Leg pain
- Increased warmth or redness in the leg
- Low blood pressure