What Is Steroid Gel?

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  • Written By: Dan Harkins
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 25 February 2020
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Anabolic steroids are used in medical and non-medical ways to reduce internal inflammation and build new muscle mass by boosting the body's levels of growth-spurring hormones like testosterone. Though primarily taken orally or via injection, a fairly new type of application, steroid gel, was first prescribed in 2000, under the brand names AndroGel® and Testim®. This muscle booster has been prescribed ever since to boost the body's natural levels of testosterone for those with abnormally low levels — or even illicitly by those seeking to make the levels higher than normal.

Physicians prescribe steroids for a variety of legitimate health reasons. These range from endometroisis and some cancers to osteoporosis and anemia. No cosmetic steroid treatments, however, have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as of 2011. This includes steroid gel, which is applied to the skin over key muscle groups at least twice a day.

According to the AndroGel® Web site, low testoterone levels can result in a variety of health problems. These include lethargy, lack of libido, depression, adipose fat increases, lack of muscular development, and a loss of body hair. Doctors may prescribe a steroid gel for people with these symptoms. Manufacturers recommend that the gel be smeared conservatively on the chest, shoulders, upper arms and abdomen. The genitals should be avoided.


The controversy is not caused by the therapeutic use, but rather by those with normal testosterone levels who acquire steroid gel without a prescription in an effort to build extra muscle. According to medical professionals, this can cause extreme mood swings, a shrinkage of the testicles, confused thinking and even aggressive tendencies. Such risks are rare when patients have low testosterone levels.

In 2009, the FDA insisted that manufacturers of steroid gel make stark changes to their packaging. The revisions made clear that, regardless of low or normal testosterone levels, steroid gel can increase a person's chances for having swollen prostate glands. For those with breast cancer or other carcinomas, further developments are more likely after using steroid gel.

Another side effect includes a marked chance for secondary exposure. This means that those not taking the drug can become exposed to it through skin-to-skin contact. In children, this secondary exposure can cause virilization, or the exaggerated and early onset of puberty and genital growth. The FDA recommends that women and children avoid contact with the regions of men that have undergone steroid gel application. It also urges those using the medication to wash their hands thoroughly after each use.


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Post 3

@MikeMason-- I had a very brief experience with steroid gel. I know that there are people who really like it, but I had a bad experience. The side effects were too many. It made me very anxious and jittery, kind of like I drank too much coffee, but much worse.

It also seemed to work more slowly than other types of steroids, I think it takes longer for the steroid to be absorbed through the skin and enter the bloodstream. Since the side effects were too many and the effects too little, I didn't continue with it for long.

Everyone is different though and reacts to medications differently. If anyone else wants to chime in with their experience, that would be good.

Post 2

My friend, who has been bodybuilding for years, said that if I'm going to use anabolic steroids, I should use injections rather than oral medications because the injections have less side effects.

What about this new steroid gel? Where does steroid gel stand in comparison with tablets and injections? Does it have less or more side effects?

Post 1

Are topical corticosteroids also available in gel form?

I like gel topical ointments better because I think they absorb better and they are less greasy.

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