Testim is a gel that delivers testosterone directly through the skin. This is known to potentially cause blood clots in the legs. If the blood clots travel to the lungs, they can potentially cause a deadly pulmonary embolism.
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Testim and Pulmonary Embolism
The Prescribing Information for Testim (testosterone gel) includes warnings about developing blood clots in the legs, a condition also known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). The most serious complication of DVT is a pulmonary embolism, which occurs when blood clots in the legs break off, travel through the heart, and get stuck in the lungs.
Studies of Testosterone and Pulmonary Embolism
In October 2011, Clinical and Applied Thrombosis / Hemostasis published a study linking testosterone therapy and pulmonary embolisms. The lead researcher, Dr. Charles Glueck, found that men with previously undiagnosed genetic risk-factors for blood clotting (such as factor V Leiden thrombophilia) might be more likely to have DVT or a pulmonary embolism within 3 months of starting testosterone. Dr. Glueck recommended blood tests to check for the mutation before starting testosterone therapy. However, the study was limited by its small sample size.
What is a Pulmonary Embolism?
A pulmonary embolism is most often caused by blood clots that travel to the lungs from another area of the body. The clots usually grow in deep veins in the calf or thigh, but sometimes the pelvis, arm, or kidney. This condition is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). The combination of DVT and a pulmonary embolism is sometimes called a venous thromboembolism (VTE).
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest pain. Appears suddenly, gets worse when breathing deeply, may cause you to bend over and hold your chest. You may feel like you’re having a heart attack.
- Cough. May be bloody.
- Leg pain, swelling, redness, warmth
- Clammy or blue-gray skin (cyanosis)
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
Call 9-1-1 and seek emergency medical treatment if you or someone you know has symptoms of a pulmonary embolism. Paramedics can begin life-saving treatment on the way to the hospital with supplemental oxygen and blood-thinning medications. You may need to be hospitalized. Doctors will typically administer intravenous (IV) clot-busting drugs. If you cannot take blood-thinners, you may need an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter, catheter-assisted thrombolysis, or open surgery.
Resources & Additional Info
- What is a Pulmonary Embolism? — National Institute of Health (NIH)
- What is Factor V Leiden Thrombophilia? — National Institute of Health (NIH)
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