Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Testosterone Therapy: What You Should Know


Am Fam Physician. 2006 May 1;73(9):1603.

  See related article on testosterone treatments.

What is testosterone?

Testosterone (say: tess-TOSS-ter-own) is a hormone found in men and women. Men have much higher levels than women. In men, testosterone can cause thick and rough hair, deep voice, and strong muscles. The right levels keep sex drive normal. Some people who need extra testosterone can get medicine from their doctors (testosterone therapy).

Who needs testosterone therapy?

Men who have low testosterone levels often feel tired and have a low sex drive. Women who are menopausal also can have a low sex drive. Men with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) can become weak and lose muscle. Testosterone therapy may help all of these people.

Is it safe to take testosterone?

There has not been enough research to know what happens if someone takes testosterone for a long time. Some people think testosterone therapy might cause prostate or breast cancer. Very high doses can hurt the liver, blood, and maybe the heart.

Are there any side effects of taking testosterone?

For men, high doses of testosterone can cause the prostate gland to swell and the blood count to increase. Women can get extra hair in some places and lose hair in others. Women and men can get acne.

How do I take testosterone?

Men can take testosterone as a patch, cream, gel, or shot. Women can take testosterone as a pill or shot.

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2006 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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