Testosterone gel is one of several forms of testosterone medication used to treat hypogonadism in men. Hypogonadism is an abnormally low level of testosterone caused by certain medical conditions rather than by the natural decrease that occurs with aging. The medical conditions that cause hypogonadism are usually disorders of the testicles, pituitary gland, or hypothalamus. Low testosterone in men can lead to characteristic decreases in energy, metabolism, and sex drive.
Like other forms of testosterone therapy, testosterone gel can cause side effects. However, what makes testosterone gel unique is that its side effects can be passed to others who accidentally come in contact with the application site. Understanding testosterone gel side effects as well as these additional risks can help keep you and others safe while you use this treatment.
Testosterone gel may cause:
- dry skin
- hot flashes
- insomnia (which may be caused by hot flashes at night)
- anxiety or depression
- muscle pain and weakness
- decrease in libido
- reduced sperm count
Other side effects of testosterone gel in men can be more serious. Symptoms of serious side effects include:
- breast pain or enlargement
- difficulty urinating
- frequent urination
- prolonged or frequent erections
- jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin)
Risks to the user
Testosterone gel doesn’t pose the same risks of liver damage that other forms of testosterone do. It may increase your risk for prostate cancer, though, so your doctor will assess your risk. If it’s too great, your doctor may suggest another treatment.
Other factors that may prevent you from being a good candidate for testosterone gel include:
- sleep apnea
- heart disease
- breast cancer
- high levels of red blood cells
Effects in women
The risk of effects of testosterone gel in women who accidently touch the application site directly or through clothing are low. However, side effects can happen. These effects include increased acne and unusual hair growth. If you’re a woman who lives with someone using testosterone gel, it’s important that you avoid all contact with the product.
Effects in children
Children are the most susceptible to the effects of testosterone gel because their bodies are still developing. These effects in children can include:
- increased anxiety and aggression
- early puberty
- increased sex drive
- frequent erection in males
- enlarged clitoris in females
- stunted growth
If you ever have any contact with children, take extra precautions to make sure they do not touch your application site. If you live with children, make sure you store the testosterone gel in a place where you’re sure your children can’t get to it.
Preventing drug transfer
Take the following steps to help prevent accidentally transferring testosterone gel to others:
- Always apply the gel before you get dressed.
- Make sure the application site is completely dry before you put on your clothes so it doesn’t transfer to your clothing.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after you apply the gel.
- Clean the application area if you expect any skin-to-skin contact with others.
If you accidentally transfer the drug to others, make sure they wash their skin right away and call a doctor.
Many of the side effects of testosterone gel aren’t serious for the user. However, if any side effects last longer than a few days, you should tell your doctor.
If you experience symptoms of serious side effects, tell your doctor right away. Allergic reactions to testosterone therapy can increase your risk for similar reactions to testosterone gel. Seek medical help if you have trouble breathing or start to swell in any part of your body.
Remember that when you use testosterone gel, there are additional risks for others who may come in contact with you. Make sure to take extra precautions to protect other people from these risks.
How is hypogonadism detected?
Your doctor can diagnose hypogonadism through a combination of physical examination and a series of blood tests. Your doctor will test the levels of testosterone in your blood at two or three separate times. These tests should be given in the morning at least one day apart from one another. A normal testosterone level for an adult male is between 300 ng/dL and 800 ng/dL. Consistently lower levels may indicate a problem with your body’s ability to make testosterone.Healthline Medical TeamAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.