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.
- Susceptibility to mood swings.
- 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.
- Cardiac arrest.
- 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.
- Reduced appetite.
- Sleeping problems.
- Reduced sperm count.
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.
- Testicles may shrink.
- 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.
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
- Clotting of the blood
- LDL increases
- coronary spasms
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.
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.
In people who are genetically predisposed to male pattern baldness, prolonged use of steroids can speed up the process of hair loss.