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Testosterone for Osteoporosis


Examples

Generic NameBrand Name
testosteroneAndroderm, AndroGel, Delatestryl, Depo-Testosterone, Testoderm

Men can take testosterone by:

  • Receiving a shot into the muscle (intramuscular injection, or IM) every 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Using an adhesive patch (transdermal) that is applied to the skin every night. Two types of patches can be used:
    • Testoderm, which is applied to the scrotum.
    • Androderm, which is applied to other areas of a man's body, such as his back, upper arms, abdomen, or thighs.
  • Rubbing a gel (AndroGel) on the shoulders, upper arms, or abdomen once a day.

How It Works

Men who have low naturally occurring testosterone take testosterone medicine to bring their levels back to normal. This slows bone thinning and reduces calcium loss.

Why It Is Used

Testosterone is used to prevent osteoporosis in men who have low testosterone levels. Testosterone is not used to prevent or treat osteoporosis in women.

How Well It Works

Testosterone may improve bone thickness, especially in the bones of the spine (vertebrae), but the evidence is not clear.1

Many men with low testosterone levels report that they feel better and have increased energy while taking testosterone.

Side Effects

Side effects of testosterone include:

  • An elevated number of red blood cells (polycythemia), which can increase the risk of stroke or heart attack.
  • Swelling in the hands and feet.
  • Increase in size of the prostate gland (hyperplasia).
  • Enlargement of the breasts (gynecomastia). This is rare.
  • Painful erections (rare).
  • Problems with the function of the liver (rare).

The most common side effect of using the adhesive patch (transdermal) testosterone is redness and itching at the application sites.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Testosterone should not be used if you are taking the supplement dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). DHEA is a human steroid hormone that decreases with age. It frequently is advertised as a "rejuvenation" supplement. DHEA may increase testosterone levels, and the combination of the two therapies may be dangerous. Too much testosterone may cause seizures, hepatitis, problems with blood clot formation, or other serious health problems.

Many other supplements may interact with testosterone. Be sure to tell your doctor about any nonprescription medicines, supplements, or herbs you are taking.

Older adult men with low testosterone levels are twice as likely to break a hip as men with normal testosterone levels.

Testosterone is not used to treat osteoporosis in women.

Testosterone should not be taken by men who have prostate cancer.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)Click here to view a form.(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. Ebeling P (2008). Osteoporosis in men. New England Journal of Medicine, 358(14): 1474–1482

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerCarla J. Herman, MD, MD, MPH - Geriatric Medicine
Last RevisedNovember 10, 2010

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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