Testosterone Strokes and Blood Clots

Testosterone treatment may increase the danger of blood clot formation, which can cause stroke, heart attack, pulmonary embolism and other cardiovascular events. Testosterone replacement therapy was aggressively marketed for “Low-T” and given to men who may not have needed it, unnecessarily increasing the risk of blood clots and other side effects.

Quick Summary
Testosterone Strokes and Blood Clots

Testosterone replacement therapy is approved to treat hypogonadism, a condition where the body does not make enough natural testosterone. Many men may have used testosterone for an unapproved indication called “Low-T” and were placed at increased risk for serious complications such as blood clot formation, strokes, heart attacks and other deadly effects.

Testosterone Blood Clots

Testosterone increases the chance of clot formation by causing the blood to become slightly thicker through “polycythemia” and by increasing blood pressure due to increased supply of thromboxane, a blood vessel constrictor. It may also increase the chance for formation of cholesterol-based plaques in the blood vessel. All of these processes may increase the chance that blood cells will clump together and form a clot.

Testosterone Strokes

Increased clot formation may occur in areas of the body such as the extremities as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or other areas. Once formed, blood clots may break off and travel through the body as a thromboembolism to lodge in the arteries leading to the brain.  In addition, increased atherosclerosis plaques may also break off and travel to block blood supply to the brain.

If blood supply and oxygen is suddenly discontinued, brain tissue death may result in a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) or stroke which may lead to permanent injury or death.

Testosterone replacement therapy is approved to treat low testosterone levels in cases where the body is not making enough hormone due to a medical condition known as hypogonadism.  Men may have used it for symptoms of “Low-T”, a term coined by the pharmaceutical industry which is not an approved diagnosis. Men who took testosterone for “Low-T” may have been placed at risk for serious side effects including blood clot formation, strokes and other serious conditions.

Testosterone replacement therapy has been linked to serious side effects including blood clot formation which can cause:

Any of these events can be debilitating or life-threatening and may lead to death.

Testosterone and Blood Clots

Testosterone increases the chance of clot formation in two ways. A common side effect of testosterone therapy, polycythemia, increases the body’s supply of hemoglobin and hematocrit, which affects the red blood cells. This can increase the blood pressure and thicken the blood slightly.

Thicker and slower moving blood causes the blood cells to “bump” into each other more often and clump together as a blood clot. Testosterone is also known to increase production of thromboxane, a blood vessel constrictor which also may increase the risk of clot formation.

Testosterone also changes the body’s metabolism of cholesterol and may lead to the formation of plaques in the arteries and veins. As the blood is restricted in moving past the plaques, it can create blood clots and, in some cases, the plaque may become loose. In either case, a solid or semi-solid particle can travel to the brain and cause a stroke.

In most cases, clots are formed in the legs in a condition known as deep-vein thrombosis (DVT).  When a clot has formed and breaks loose, it can become known as a venous thromboembolism (VTE). These clots loose in the bloodstream can travel to the brain, heart or lungs and can become fatal as a stroke, heart attack or pulmonary embolism.

A 2013 study published in Clinical and Applied Thrombosis/Hemostasis showed a link between DVT hospitalization and testosterone use. The risks may be particularly high in the first six months of treatment but overall, may increase the risk of a clotting event by about 60%.

Many of the men who used testosterone replacement products were never been tested for low testosterone levels. A large percentage of testosterone products were or may still be in use for naturally occurring symptoms of aging, by men who have not been made aware of the serious risks.

Testosterone and Stroke

Taking testosterone replacement therapy may increase the risk of cerebrovascular accident (CVA) or stroke due to an increased chance of clotting. In addition, changes in the body’s cholesterol metabolism may also increase the risk of atherosclerosis which can lead to stroke.

A stroke or CVA is the occurrence of a sudden blockage of the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the brain. When the supply of blood and oxygen to the brain is blocked, the brain tissue cannot survive. CVAs are most often caused by blood clots that have developed elsewhere in the body but may also be caused by arterial or venous plaques from atherosclerosis that have broken off, producing a piece that may lodge in an artery.

Strokes occur suddenly and are not always treatable. In some cases, a CVA will cause permanent damage to the brain, physical disability and may even result in death.

Symptoms of stroke include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face or limbs (arm or leg), often on only one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion or difficulty speaking
  • Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden headache

Symptoms of stroke should be treated as a medical emergency.  In some cases, though not always effective, immediate treatment will help to reverse some of the effects of a stroke.

The FDA announced an investigation in January of 2014 regarding severe adverse events caused by testosterone, particularly heart attack and in June of 2014 the FDA began requiring a warning regarding the risk of clot formation on all testosterone products.  In 2015, a warning about heart attack risks was added to all testosterone product labelling.

Severe Side Effects of Testosterone Replacement Treatment

All medications carry some side effects. Most of the side effects caused by testosterone are hormonal type side effects and are mild to moderate, however some of the side effects of testosterone can be life-threatening.  

Life-threatening events caused by testosterone treatment can include:

  • Stroke
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Venous thromboembolism
  • Heart attack
  • Pulmonary Embolism
  • Death

Testosterone Blood Clot or Stroke Lawsuits

Many men or loved ones of those who used testosterone replacement for “Low-T” and who may have taken the medication without understanding risks have filed testosterone lawsuits for blood clots, stroke or other serious side effects  Some testosterone settlements have been offered but more lawsuits remain in federal, state and local courts and more may be expected.

Notwithstanding claims relating to this product, the drug/medical device remains approved by the U.S. FDA. 

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