Medical News Today: What are the side effects of testosterone pellets?

Many pharmaceutical professionals promote the benefits of testosterone replacement therapy. They state that administering this hormone in the form of a gel, injection, or pellet can relieve the symptoms of low testosterone.

These symptoms can include:

  • sluggishness
  • decreased libido and trouble maintaining an erection
  • loss of energy
  • hair loss
  • an increase in body fat
  • a decrease in muscle mass
  • irritability and depression

Using a product such as testosterone pellets may relieve some of the symptoms associated with low testosterone levels. However, testosterone pellets have many risks and side effects. People should discuss these with a doctor before trying this treatment.

What are testosterone pellets?

Testosterone pellets are a form of hormone replacement therapy. They are about the size of a grain of rice, and a doctor will implant them under the skin.

These pellets contain crystallized testosterone and deliver a steady, low dose of this hormone to the individual for up to 6 months at a time.


Side effects and risks

Although many people believe that testosterone replacement therapy can be beneficial, it can cause side effects and increase the risk of certain health conditions.

What are the side effects?

Doctor injecting a patients arm
After administering a local anesthetic, a doctor will place testosterone pellets under the skin.

The possible side effects of testosterone replacement therapy include the following:

  • increased red blood cell production
  • fluid retention
  • acne
  • oily skin
  • decreased urine stream
  • increased frequency of urination
  • smaller testicle size
  • reduced sperm count
  • new or worsening sleep apnea
  • swelling of breast tissue and prostate

What are the risks?

Too much testosterone can increase a person’s risk of the following conditions:

Testosterone pellets also come with specific health risks. These risks include:

  • infection of the insertion site
  • the pellets dislodging and coming out of the skin
  • incorrect dosage

Taking testosterone supplements disrupts the body’s ability to make testosterone.

This means that when a person stops taking testosterone supplements, they may feel worse suddenly because their body has not adjusted to making testosterone on its own again yet.


How do testosterone pellets work?

Testosterone pellets work by emitting a steady, low level of testosterone over a period of several months. A doctor will typically implant the pellets under the skin, or subcutaneously, near the hip or on the buttocks. This procedure is quick and can take place in the doctor’s office.

First, the doctor will thoroughly clean the area where they plan to implant the pellets. They will then administer a local anesthetic before making a small incision in the skin and using a tool called a trocar to insert about ten pellets.

The pellets should release a steady dose of the hormone for several months following the implantation.


Are they effective?

Testosterone pellets have received mixed feedback.

Many people who use some form of testosterone replacement therapy, including the pellets, report feeling an immediate boost in energy and sex drive.

In a 2014 study, only 17 percent of people who had testosterone replacement therapy chose to use testosterone pellets. However, of those who did, 70 percent were satisfied. The rate of satisfaction was similar for the testosterone gels and injections.

The same study shows that 64 percent of the people who chose testosterone pellets favored them over the other forms of therapy due to their ease of use.

A 2013 study investigating men’s decisions to begin and stop using testosterone pellets reported that there was no difference in the testosterone levels of the men who continued to use testosterone pellets and those who discontinued the therapy.

Even so, many doctors still recommend testosterone pellets as an option for males with hypogonadism, a condition in which the body does not produce enough testosterone.

Dosage

Testosterone gel
A doctor may recommend testosterone gels or injections before offering testosterone pellets.

It can take some trial and error to achieve the correct testosterone dosage in replacement therapy.

However, the dosage is difficult to adjust when using testosterone pellets because adding or removing pellets requires an additional medical procedure each time.

As a result, some doctors recommend that people start with another form of testosterone replacement therapy, such as gels or injections, to get the dosage right before switching to testosterone pellets.

Most doctors will consider using testosterone pellets for a person once they have determined a dosage that alleviates the symptoms of low testosterone without raising red blood cell counts.


What are the benefits?

Medical professionals remain divided regarding the benefits of testosterone replacement therapy and whether or not it can help alleviate the symptoms of hypogonadism.

Harvard Men’s Health advise people considering testosterone therapy to consult a doctor and learn about all of the side effects and risks before making a decision. They also recommend that people interested in this therapy try to boost their energy by making lifestyle changes first.

However, for people using testosterone replacement therapy, testosterone pellets may offer benefits over other forms of this treatment. Potential advantages include:

  • being more convenient than testosterone injections
  • causing less skin irritation than gels or creams
  • lasting for longer with no daily medication to take

Takeaway

More research on testosterone replacement therapy is necessary to verify its benefits and minimize its potential risks. Testosterone pellets may be a more convenient treatment option than other forms of testosterone replacement therapy for those with hypogonadism.

However, people should not view testosterone pellets as a quick fix to boost their energy levels and sex drive. It is vital to always speak with a doctor before starting testosterone replacement therapy and to be aware of the potential side effects and risks.

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