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Steroids: Long and Short Term Side Effects 

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Steroids often mean differently to different people; depending on their required usage. We often refer to the ones our bodies make naturally. Taking corticosteroids or anabolic steroids, both, have long-term and short-term side effects on the human body. These side effects can be mental and physical.

Side Effects of Steroids 

When taken in excess or higher doses, some steroids can be very harmful to the body. However, some types are used to treat inflammatory conditions such as chronic bronchitis, and these are classified as corticosteroids instead. 

Those are not the same things as anabolic steroids, which may pose higher risks for users – when used in excess.

As the name suggests, anabolic steroids are synthetic forms of testosterone, sometimes called “juice” or “roids.”. These steroids are often used legitimately to induce puberty or to treat cancer and diseases like AIDS. The name for this group of substances is anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS).

People abuse anabolics for a variety of reasons, including those who need them for medical reasons as well as those looking to improve their performance and/or appearance. These include the following:

  • Bodybuilders who want to gain muscle.
  • Athletes who would like to improve their performance.
  • People who need to speed up their recovery after an injury.

Main Side Effects

  • Shrinkage of the testicles.
  • Excessive growth of hair in women.
  • Female voice deepening.
  • Increase in male breast size.
  • Problems with fertility.
  • Cardiovascular disease.
  • Hypertension.
  • Susceptibility to mood swings.
  • Psychosis.
  • Heart attack.
  • Irregular menstrual cycles.

Like using any substance, natural or synthetic, has adverse effects, the same is true for steroids. We will discuss the common, gender-specific, and mode of administration-related side effects in this article. And, explain how to avoid these.

Because anabolic steroids are synthetic testosterone, they will influence many of the characteristics of gender in an individual who abuses them.

Common Side Effects

Since the majority of the masses use oral corticosteroids or prednisone, the following are the most common side effects that long term use of these steroids may pose:

  • Abdominal pain.
  • Weight gain.
  • High blood sugar.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Fluid retention.

Long Term Side Effects 

When anabolic steroids are abused long-term, they can lead to:

  • Aggression (“roid rage”).
  • Feelings of paranoia.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Cardiac arrest.
  • Aneurysms.
  • Renal failure.
  • Liver cancer.
  • Injection-related diseases.
  • Effects on the immune system.

Side effects of steroids can often be seen by observing how someone’s behavior or outward appearance changes. However, some effects of long-term use of steroids are not visible.

Though steroids don’t affect the brain as intensely and immediately as a substance like cocaine does, they can change the brain over time. 

Changes to these chemicals can affect the supply and production of neurotransmitters in the brain. Mood and behavior in the individual can change as a result of these changes in the brain.

Short Term Side Effects 

In the short-term, these intended gains in strength and performance can have a number of unwanted effects, including:

  • Having acne.
  • Being moody.
  • Exhaustion.
  • Irritability.
  • Reduced appetite.

  • Sleeping problems.
  • Reduced sperm count.
  • Infertility.

When people use and abuse anabolic steroids, they usually seek the benefits related to improved physical performance and muscle growth. They may go overboard at times and increase the risk of side effects.

Some might notice a swollen or infected injection site since anabolic steroids are liquids injected into muscles. There may be an unpleasant odor if steroid cream is being used.

Steroid Side Effects on Men 

Prolonged use of anabolic steroids can cause the following effects on men:

  • Sperm production is reduced.
  • Infertility.
  • Testicles may shrink.
  • ED.
  • Loss of hair.
  • Breast enlargement.
  • Can increase the risk of prostate cancer.
  • May increase acne severity.
  • Stomach pain.

Steroid Side Effects on Women 

Women can experience the following side effects from anabolic steroids:

  • Hair growth on the face and on the body.
  • Loss of breast tissue.
  • Clitoris swelling.
  • Voice deepening.
  • Increase in sex drive.
  • Menstrual problems.
  • Hair fall.
  • Intense acne.

Side Effects of Injectable Steroids 

Corticosteroid injections can result in temporary side effects, such as thinning or loss of color of the skin near the injection site, and intense pain near the injection site – also known as a flare-up following corticosteroid injection.

 

It is also possible to experience other signs and symptoms, such as facial flushing, insomnia, and high blood sugar levels. The doctors usually limit corticosteroid injections to three or four per year depending on the patient’s condition.

As for injectable anabolic steroids, the side effects can vary depending on the type and requirement one is using them for. 

Some people who inject anabolic steroids may use nonsterile injection techniques or may share needles with other users that have been contaminated by other users. This exposes these steroid users to the possibility of acquiring potentially life-threatening infections such as HIV and hepatitis B and C.

In addition, animal studies indicate that anabolic steroids suppress the immune system, making them more vulnerable to infections.

Misuse of steroids can lead to acne, hair loss, cysts, and oily hair and skin. It is also possible to develop pain and abscesses at the injection site for those who inject steroids.

Jaundice is also a common side effect of anabolic steroid misuse, caused by liver damage.

Side Effects of Oral Steroids 

Most of the time, oral steroids are more beneficial than side effects for many diseases. There may, however, be some side effects to deal with. A full list of possible side effects is provided in the information leaflet in your medicine packet. The most common side effects include:

  • Loss of bone density (osteoporosis). The good news is that there are some medicines that can help protect against this if the risk is high. It is possible to prevent bone loss by taking a medicine called bisphosphonate.
  • Gaining weight. The face can also become puffy.
  • A lower immune response may increase infection risk. If you haven’t had chickenpox in the past (and therefore aren’t immune), you’re at risk of having a severe case of chickenpox. As a child, many people got chickenpox and developed immunity to it. When taking corticosteroids, if you have never had chickenpox, do the following:
    • Do not come into contact with someone who has chickenpox or shingles.
    • If you come into contact with someone who has these conditions, tell a doctor.

    Furthermore, if you have ever had tuberculosis (TB), even many years ago, it may flare up again.

  • Hypertension. Make sure you keep a regular blood pressure check. High blood pressure can be managed.
  • You may need extra treatment if you have diabetes due to high blood sugar (hyperglycemia). Steroids can sometimes lead to diabetes. Especially if you have a family history of diabetes and take long-term steroids, your doctor may arrange yearly blood sugar tests to check for diabetes.
  • Skin problems such as thinning skin, inflammation, and slow healing after injuries. There may be stretch marks as well.
  • Weakness of muscles. Physiotherapy may help treat this after the steroid is stopped.
  • Psychological changes. Taking steroids can actually enhance your self-esteem. Nevertheless, steroids can aggravate depression and other mental health problems, and can occasionally lead to mental health problems. These side effects are more likely to occur following the start of treatment and at higher doses. It is even possible for some people to develop delusion and suicidal thoughts; they may become confused, and irritable. The effects of steroid withdrawal on mental health can also occur. If you experience worrying mood or behavior changes, seek medical advice.
  • Increasing cataract risk. In case you experience any blurred vision, talk to your doctor. Your eye doctor might need to examine you.
  • Increased risk of stomach and duodenal ulcers. Tell your doctor if you develop indigestion or tummy (abdominal) pains.

 

Some people who use steroids may experience the above-mentioned side effects as well. There is often a balance between the risk of side effects against the symptoms and damage that may result from some diseases if they are not treated. Some of the less common side effects are not listed above but will be included in the leaflet that comes with your medicine.

Physical Side Effects of Steroids 

Men and women who abuse anabolic steroids may also face the following risks:

  • Infection with hepatitis.
  • HIV caused by sharing needles.
  • Skin problems and violent trauma.

System of Musculoskeletal Organs 

The abuse of anabolic steroids can stunt the growth of male children. Puberty is normally characterized by a growth spurt triggered by rising levels of testosterone and other sex hormones. During puberty, bones stop growing due to rising levels of testosterone. In the case of steroid abuse, these sex hormone levels can be artificially raised, which results in premature bone resorption.

When taken by adolescents, steroids can cause short stature and tendon rupture in the musculoskeletal system.

Cardiac System 

Using steroids can alter the level of lipoproteins in the blood, which carry cholesterol. As a result, abusers may develop cardiovascular disease.

It has been demonstrated that oral steroids reduce the level of high-density lipoprotein (“good cholesterol”) and increase the level of low-density lipoprotein (“bad cholesterol”), increasing the risk for atherosclerosis and heart attacks.

Blood clots can also form in the vessel walls when steroid abuse is present. Seven effects of steroid abuse on the cardiovascular system include:

  • HDL decreases
  • left ventricular enlargement
  • leading to heart attacks
  • Hypertension
  • Clotting of the blood
  • LDL increases
  • coronary spasms

Liver 

The abuse of anabolic steroids can lead to liver tumors. There is also a rare condition known as peliosis hepatis, characterized by the formation of blood-filled cysts in the liver caused by steroids. These cysts or tumors can rupture and cause internal bleeding.

Infections 

Because some who abuse steroids inject the drugs and use nonsterile injection techniques or share contaminated needles with other abusers, they are at increased risk for developing HIV and hepatitis B and C like all other injection drug users.

Hair Loss

In people who are genetically predisposed to male pattern baldness, prolonged use of steroids can speed up the process of hair loss.

You will have higher levels of DHT if you are prone to male pattern baldness. Some experts believe steroids can increase DHT production. Higher levels of DHT can result in hair loss.

It is advised to discontinue the use of steroids if you believe that you are experiencing hair loss. This is because prolonged use can lead to permanent baldness rather than temporary hair loss.

Skin Side Effects

Acne and other skin problems are caused if one is exposed to prolonged use of steroids. Steroid abuse can affect the skin in the following ways:

  • Maintaining fluid retention
  • Jaundice
  • Oily scalp and skin
  • Severe acne and cysts

Mental Side Effects  

Depression and Mood Swings 

It is not unusual for anabolic steroid users to strike out at family and friends, as anabolic steroids can cause paranoia, aggression, and violence for no reason.

Regular users may experience insomnia. People with paranoia or mood swings may become aggressive with strong feelings of aggression, and even violence may occur as a result of their paranoia. 

As a result, some people may face or experience signs of depression. By correlation, depression proves to be one of the possible side effects of prolonged steroid use.

Steroid Specific Side Effects and How to Combat Them

Anavar

Genes, training, diet, dosage, and cycle length all influence the severity of side effects.

If a user takes high dosages of Anavar along with an unhealthy lifestyle, they may experience adverse reactions, which will be evident at their next checkup.

On the other hand, healthy individuals taking moderate dosages of Anavar may not experience any side effects, resulting in normal test scores.

Liver Toxicity

Anavar contains a c-17 alpha-alkyl group, thus raising the levels of aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT).

Because Anavar is a mild compound, as well as the kidneys also work to process it, hepatic stress is typically very manageable.

Tauroursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA) supplementation may be beneficial for users seeking additional protection. The dosage is 500mg/day.

In order to prevent further liver inflammation, users shouldn’t combine Anavar with hepatotoxic drugs or alcohol. If the liver is already inflamed or injured, Anavar should not be taken.

Anavar generally does not cause liver stress in most users, as the organ has great resilience even when abused. Following a cycle, ALT/AST enzyme levels typically return to normal levels.

Cholesterol

Since oral steroids stimulate hepatic lipase in the liver, oral steroids have a more devastating effect on cholesterol than injectable steroids.

Due to its mild nature, Anavar does not increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels excessively, making it a more cardiovascular-friendly oral steroid.

Anavar presents the least cardiotoxicity of any anabolic steroid in the family, only behind Testosterone and Deca Durabolin.

Post-cycle, blood pressure will return to normal levels after a notable increase. Therefore, users can expect some cardiovascular strain, which may result in a marginal increase in myocardial infarction.

Anabolic steroids should not be taken by individuals with existing high blood pressure or genetically predisposed to heart disease.

Anavar is unlikely to cause cardiac issues in patients with healthy lipids.

In addition to regular cardiovascular exercise, users should eat low-fat, low-saturated, and low-sodium diets to minimize cardiotoxicity.

Excessive Pumping

Anavar’s aesthetic benefits include increased glycogen storage, leading to bigger pumps (both in and out of the gym).

A ‘pumped-up’ bodybuilder may look good, but working out with excessive muscle fullness can be uncomfortable or even painful.

When performing deadlifts on Anavar, painful pumps can occur, especially in the lower back. It is recommended that users do not perform high rep ranges during workouts or incorporate short rest intervals between sets.

Among the solutions for users who experience excessive fluid retention in their muscles is reducing their carbohydrate intake, which results in a decrease in intracellular fluid volume.

As an alternative, you can take a diuretic, but this isn’t recommended since bodybuilders may strain their kidneys further, increasing their risk of kidney disorders.

Suppression of Testosterone

Men and women, regardless of testosterone levels, can experience this side effect; testosterone remains vital for the health and well-being of women.

As one of the least suppressive anabolic steroids, Anavar will still cause significant decreases in endogenous testosterone, due to the impairment of the hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular axis (HPTA).

Post-cycle symptoms can include sexual dysfunction, decreased libido, lethargy and depression.

Anavar does not completely halt testosterone production. So, the time it takes for natural testosterone levels to return to normal is likely to be short (a few weeks).

As a result of the mild nature of Anavar, some users may not experience noticeable side effects or comedown post-cycle, and will therefore not require post-cycle therapy.

It is also possible to use medications such as Clomid or Nolvadex to stimulate endogenous testosterone production and restore the hypothalamus-pituitary-testicular axis.

Toxicity to the Kidneys

As a unique anabolic steroid, Anavar is more demanding on the kidneys when it comes to processing Oxandrolone.

Therefore, there will be less hepatic (liver) inflammation, and there will be more renal (kidney) inflammation.

If Anavar is abused in high doses or for an excessively long period (over 8 weeks), it can cause acute or chronic kidney damage.

Getting regular checkups is essential for optimal kidney health before, during, and after Anavar cycles; to monitor serum creatinine levels.

Additionally, the better their kidney health will be, the more diligent they are with regards to cardiovascular health (doing cardio exercises regularly, reducing sodium intake, etc.).

It is for this reason that high blood pressure damages the kidney’s blood vessels, causing the nephron tubules, which filter water out of the body, to die.

Virilization

Women may experience the effects of masculinization when Anavar is taken in prolonged cycles (>5 weeks) or at high doses (>10mg/day).

One such side effect of a virilizing drug is the deepening of the voice, shrinkage of the breast, enlargement of the clitoris, or (on the body) increased hair growth. Menstrual cycles can also become irregular.

Anavar should be used sporadically in cycles rather than continuously for several months at a time, in order to avoid virilization.

Winstrol

Genes, dosage, cycle length, training, and diet all play a role in the severity of Winstrol’s side effects. The maximum dosage men should take for longer than six weeks is 25mg/day. With other anabolic steroids, Winstrol’s side effects will worsen.

Damage to the liver

Its oral form and c-17 alkylation make Winstrol one of the most hepatotoxic anabolic steroids. Consequently, the liver must process it before it becomes active, adding to its workload.

This can increase inflammation and ALT/AST enzyme levels in the short term. It is possible for Winstrol users with compromised liver function or those who use it excessively to develop liver cirrhosis.

Tauroursodeoxycholic acid (500mg/day) is a liver support supplement that bodybuilders commonly take during their cycle to aid in reducing hepatic damage. There is an FDA-approved treatment for cholestatic liver diseases called TUDCA.

Changing cholesterol levels

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol will increase and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) will drop, resulting in higher blood pressure and myocardial infarction risk.

It is especially noticeable with Winstrol, since it is an oral steroid, and hepatic lipase is stimulated in the liver, which further lowers HDL cholesterol.

Moreover, a lack of estrogenic conversion can worsen blood pressure while estrogen lowers cholesterol.

In order to prevent excessive blood pressure levels from rising, bodybuilders require fish oil supplements (4-5 grams a day) and regular cardiovascular exercise. Genetics and a person’s susceptibility to heart disease affect the risk of cardiac damage, however.

Inflammation of the joints

A more ripped appearance is achieved by losing water, which reduces the amount of extracellular fluid obscuring muscles.

However, this diuretic effect does have the disadvantage that joints are less cushioned, causing pain, especially in older steroid users.

Deca Durabolin, on the other hand, can actually improve joint health, as it increases synovial fluid production.

Those who regularly use Winstrol for cutting may benefit from using Deca Durabolin as part of their off-season bulking stacks in order to protect their joints from long-term usage.

The suppression of testosterone

As with all anabolic steroids, Winstrol damages the hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular axis, causing endogenous testosterone to be inhibited. Due to Winstrol’s potency, low testosterone levels can persist for many weeks or months after stopping the cycle.

It is possible to have less well-being, diminished sexual function, and atrophy of the testicles if testosterone levels are low.

In order to increase testosterone production, bodybuilders frequently use a post cycle therapy (PCT).

Hypogonadism can be treated with PCT medications such as Nolvadex, Clomid, and hCG.

If a potent stack of steroids is taken, Nolvadex and Clomid both suffice for single-steroid cycles. The primary purpose of hCG is to restore sperm reduction, rather than to recover endogenous testosterone on its own.

Having acne

Due to excessive sebum production, Winstrol is a DHT-derived substance that can stimulate the sebaceous glands and block pores.

On paper, Winstrol’s androgenicity is significantly lower than other anabolic steroids, such as Dianabol and Testosterone; consequently, this side effect won’t be severe.

Loss of hair

Winstrol increases DHT (dihydrotestosterone) levels, which will lead to thin hair or accelerated thinning of the scalp. It is possible for bodybuilders predisposed to male pattern hair loss to experience hair loss, however, this is unlikely to be a major problem for most users, due to Winstrol’s mild androgenic activity.

As Winstrol does not contain the 5*-reductase enzyme, finasteride and other medications commonly used to inhibit hair loss will not be effective. Winstrol does not convert testosterone to DHT, since it is already derived from DHT; thus, hindering such a conversion is not effective.

Virilization

At moderate dosages, Winstrol may cause masculinization because of its low affinity when binding to SHBG, resulting in dramatically higher levels of free testosterone.

As a result, Winstrol is generally not a suitable steroid for women who wish to maintain their femininity. Exceptions to this rule occur only with small doses of Winstrol. It is unlikely that such a protocol would surpass the results of taking more female-friendly steroids, such as Anavar.

Steroids Withdrawl

If a steroid treatment lasts longer than a few days, it must not be missed, and treatment can only be stopped under medical supervision. Because your body stops making enough of its own steroids after a few days or weeks of taking steroids, you can no longer maintain certain functions (such as blood pressure). If you suddenly stop taking medication, your blood pressure may fall and your blood sugar levels may drop. To allow your adrenal glands to make their own steroids again, you will need to ‘taper’ (gradually reduce) the dose.

Generally, if someone has taken steroids for less than three weeks they will not need to taper, but you should consult your IBD team before stopping the medication.

In some cases, people regain their symptoms of IBD when they reduce their steroid dose (known as steroid dependence). If this happens you can be offered other drugs, such as azathioprine, to help you come off steroids completely.

How to Stop Side Effects 

It is crucial to remember that you must not stop any type of drug all at once. Whether it is a topical corticosteroid for acne or an anabolic steroid for muscle gain

You must tell your doctor as soon as any side effects start to appear. Not only can they help you with the existing symptoms, they will also pinpoint the exact reason behind the side effects.

Before you begin on any type of steroid course, the first and foremost step is to gather all your health information. One steroid type may be suitable for your friend but may cause short-term and long-term side effects for you.

Some Tips to Remember

  • While taking steroids (unless prescribed by a doctor), you should not take anti-inflammatory medications (such as ibuprofen). Combining the two increases the risk of developing a stomach or duodenal ulcer.
  • It is prudent for people who take regular steroids to carry a steroid card or wear a medical emergency identification bracelet, which should be provided by the person who prescribed or supplied your medicine. When you’re in an emergency, you can use this to find out your dose, your condition, etc. A doctor needs to know that you take steroids if you are knocked unconscious in an accident, for example.
  • If you have other conditions, you may need to increase the steroid dosage for a short period of time. Having a serious infection or undergoing an operation, for example. This is because physical strain requires more steroids.
  • If you are concerned about your treatment with steroids, consult your physician.

Conclusion 

Whether we are referring to corticosteroids or anabolic steroids, dosage moderation is crucial. There are numerous health benefits of using either of the steroid types. However, one must remember that excess use is not recommended for any type of drug.

In moderation, steroids can be quite useful in providing anti-inflammatory results. On the other hand, it also helps provide relief for conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease. To avoid steroid side effects, one must be aware of their own physical and mental conditions. Before beginning a course of steroids (medicinal, or anabolic), you should go to a doctor and discuss your current health situation.

If it is a trainer that you are seeking advice from, make sure that they are qualified to provide you with the advice and training.

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