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Medically Approved

Prescription medications for low testosterone

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For malesFor femalesHow soon it worksRisksNatural boostersSummary
Both females and males may benefit from testosterone levels to prevent health challenges and impairing symptoms. Depo-testosterone and Androgel are two prescription options.
Medically reviewed by Ami Patel PharmD, BCPS
Written by Rashida Ruwa, RN
Updated on October 27, 2023

Testosterone is a hormone primarily produced in the testes of males and, in smaller amounts, in the ovaries and adrenal glands of females. It plays a role in the development and functioning of reproductive organs.

In females, testosterone is involved in sexual drive, energy levels, and bone density. In males, testosterone is responsible for developing secondary sexual characteristics, such as facial and body hair, deepening of the voice, and muscle mass. 

Low testosterone may manifest differently in males and females. Age may also play a role.

In adult males, signs of low testosterone may include:

  • reduced sex drive
  • erectile dysfunction
  • chronic fatigue
  • decreased muscle mass
  • hair loss
  • mood changes

In females, low testosterone may present as:

  • reduced sex drive
  • chronic fatigue
  • hair loss
  • mood changes

These symptoms may also have multiple other causes. Only a thorough consultation with a healthcare professional can explore the root cause of your symptoms.

Prescription medications to increase testosterone in males

Adult male talking with doctor about prescription medications to increase testosterone
Photography by Supersizer/Getty Images

If your medical professional determines you have low testosterone levels, they may recommend a treatment based on medications commonly known as testosterone boosters. The approach may change depending on the cause of low testosterone and your other health needs.

Your therapy may involve medications such as:  

  • Testosterone cypionate (Depo-testosterone): It requires an intramuscular injection every 2–4 weeks. 
  • Testosterone pump (Androderm or Androgel): The testosterone gel is applied topically to the back, abdomen, or upper arms once daily, with the specific dose determined by a healthcare professional.
  • Testosterone undecanoate (Aveed): Intramuscular injections typically every 10 weeks.
  • Testosterone enanthate (Delatestryl): Intramuscular injections every 2–4 weeks, depending on your needs.

Testosterone therapy may cause mild to severe side effects. It’s important that you use these medications only under a healthcare professional’s supervision and strictly follow their guidelines.

Commonly reported side effects of testosterone medications may include:

  • worsened acne
  • significant changes in mood
  • headaches
  • allergic reactions at the application site (for gels and pumps)
  • fatigue
  • physiological changes like infertility or small testicles

These side effects are more likely when the medications are misused.

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Prescription medications to increase testosterone in females

Healthcare professionals often prescribe the same medications to treat low testosterone in females and males. However, testosterone therapy in females is less common, and doctors will carefully monitor and adjust treatment to avoid adverse effects. 

Testosterone therapy in females is considered off-label therapy. Off-label means the professional uses the medication for purposes different than those specified on the label. This is often because clinical or research evidence suggests it may be helpful even if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t approved it yet for that purpose.

The decision to prescribe testosterone therapy to females with low testosterone is determined individually and carefully weighed against potential risks. 

Possible side effects of testosterone medications may be similar in females than males. However, testosterone therapy may have different effects and risks in females due to innate physiological differences. 

Female-specific side effects may include:

  • increased facial and body hair growth (hirsutism) 
  • voice deepening
  • menstrual irregularities or cessation of menstruation

How long do testosterone boosters take to work?

The effectiveness and timeline for testosterone boosters vary widely depending on the product, baseline testosterone levels, and overall health. 

Testosterone medications may start to show initial effects within 3–6 weeks. You may notice improvements in energy levels, mood regulation, and muscle mass.

Achieving the full therapeutic effects of the drugs, such as significant muscle gain, improved libido, or enhanced vitality, often requires several weeks to a few months of consistent use.

Many people take testosterone boosters for several months to a year or longer to maintain and build upon the gains in testosterone levels and associated benefits. However, doctors do not typically recommend testosterone for long-term use. 

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Risks of testosterone therapy

While testosterone therapy may benefit adults with low testosterone levels, it may also have some risks, including:

  • Cardiovascular health: Some concern exists that testosterone therapy may increase the risk of cardiovascular issues, such as heart attacks and strokes. The evidence regarding this risk is mixed, and it’s an area of ongoing research. If you have concerns about your heart health, discuss the pros and cons with your healthcare professional.
  • Prostate health: Testosterone therapy may exacerbate pre-existing prostate conditions in males or lead to the development of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Regular prostate monitoring is necessary during testosterone treatment.
  • Elevated red blood cell count: Testosterone therapy may increase red blood cell production, leading to polycythemia. This condition involves thickened blood, increasing the risk of stroke and blood clots.

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Natural testosterone boosters

Hormone balance is essential, but it may depend on many factors and affect bodily functions. You should confirm with a healthcare professional if your testosterone levels are higher or lower than needed and what the best approach is. Trying to alter testosterone levels on your own may not be safe.

During your therapy, your healthcare professional may recommend natural remedies and lifestyle modifications that could help complement your efforts, including the following:

  • Manage your weight: Some studies link obesity with low testosterone levels. Weight management is critical and a nutrient-dense diet and regular exercise may help.
  • Exercise regularly: Regular physical activity, including cardiovascular exercises and strength training, may help balance testosterone levels and prevent chronic conditions. 
  • Consume a nutrient-dense diet: Besides weight management, your diet can also help with your overall health. Including foods rich in healthy fats such as avocado, lean proteins like chicken and fish, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains may support testosterone production. 
  • Get enough sleep: Poor sleep quality and insufficient sleep may disrupt hormone production, including testosterone. Prioritizing good sleep hygiene by establishing regular sleep patterns and creating a comfortable sleep environment is advised.
  • Manage stress: Chronic stress may negatively affect testosterone levels. You can try stress management techniques like meditation and deep breathing into your routine to cope with stress.

Summary

Treatment for low testosterone levels typically involves prescription medications. These may include gels or injections. However, working closely with a healthcare professional is crucial to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.

While medications for low testosterone may offer benefits, it is important to be aware of possible risks and side effects, as well as the potential for misuse. Your healthcare professional can help you determine if and when testosterone therapy is useful for you.

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