Common side effects from testosterone medication include acne, swelling, and breast enlargement in males. Serious side effects may include liver toxicity, heart disease, and behavioral changes. Women and children who are exposed may develop virilization. It is recommended that individuals with prostate cancer not use the medication. It can cause harm if used during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Men who produce more testosterone are more likely to engage in extramarital sex. Testosterone levels do not rely on physical presence of a partner; testosterone levels of men engaging in same-city and long-distance relationships are similar. Physical presence may be required for women who are in relationships for the testosterone–partner interaction, where same-city partnered women have lower testosterone levels than long-distance partnered women.
Increased testosterone can have an impact on body composition. Possible benefits include gains in lean muscle mass, reduced body fat and increased bone density. Testosterone inhibits uptake of triglycerides and increases lipid mobilization from adipose tissue, and the increase or decrease of testosterone will usually have an inverse effect on fat stores, with higher testosterone generally causing a decrease in body fat. "The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism" published a study in 2007 that showed decreases in body fat and increases in lean mass in HIV-positive obese men given testosterone therapy. In 1989, a study of the effects of testosterone on muscle mass at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry suggests that increasing testosterone increases protein synthesis in muscles. Body composition changes from increased testosterone were also demonstrated in a 1999 study at the School of Exercise Science and Sports Management, Southern Cross University in Australia performed on male weight-training subjects, which showed increases in arm girth and body weight and decreased body fat following a 12-week cycle of testosterone enanthate.
The reliable measurement of serum free testosterone requires equilibrium dialysis. This is not appropriate for clinical use as it is very time consuming and therefore expensive. The amount of bioavailable testosterone can be measured as a percentage of the total testosterone after precipitation of the SHBG bound fraction using ammonium sulphate. The bioavailable testosterone is then calculated from the total testosterone level. This method has an excellent correlation with free testosterone (Tremblay and Dube 1974) but is not widely available for clinical use. In most clinical situations the available tests are total testosterone and SHBG which are both easily and reliably measured. Total testosterone is appropriate for the diagnosis of overt male hypogonadism where testosterone levels are very low and also in excluding hypogonadism in patients with normal/high-normal testosterone levels. With increasing age, a greater number of men have total testosterone levels just below the normal range or in the low-normal range. In these patients total testosterone can be an unreliable indicator of hypogonadal status. There are a number of formulae that calculate an estimated bioavailable or free testosterone level using the SHBG and total testosterone levels. Some of these have been shown to correlate well with laboratory measures and there is evidence that they more reliably indicate hypogonadism than total testosterone in cases of borderline biochemical hypogonadism (Vermeulen et al 1971; Morris et al 2004). It is important that such tests are validated for use in patient populations relevant to the patient under consideration.
Male hypogonadism is a clinical syndrome caused by a lack of androgens or their action. Causes of hypogonadism may reflect abnormalities of the hypothalamus, pituitary, testes or target tissues. Increases in the amount of testosterone converted to estrogen under the action of the enzyme aromatase may also contribute to hypogonadism. Most aspects of the clinical syndrome are unrelated to the location of the cause. A greater factor in the production of a clinical syndrome is the age of onset. The development of hypogonadism with aging is known as late-onset hypogonadism and is characterised by loss of vitality, fatigue, loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, somnolence, depression and poor concentration. Hypogonadal ageing men also gain fat mass and lose bone mass, muscle mass and strength.
The bones and the brain are two important tissues in humans where the primary effect of testosterone is by way of aromatization to estradiol. In the bones, estradiol accelerates ossification of cartilage into bone, leading to closure of the epiphyses and conclusion of growth. In the central nervous system, testosterone is aromatized to estradiol. Estradiol rather than testosterone serves as the most important feedback signal to the hypothalamus (especially affecting LH secretion). In many mammals, prenatal or perinatal "masculinization" of the sexually dimorphic areas of the brain by estradiol derived from testosterone programs later male sexual behavior.
Hypogonadism is a disease in which the body is unable to produce normal amounts of testosterone due to a problem with the testicles or with the pituitary gland that controls the testicles. Testosterone replacement therapy can improve the signs and symptoms of low testosterone in these men. Doctors may prescribe testosterone as injections, pellets, patches or gels.