It's a multimillion-dollar industry. Drug makers spent more than $100 million last year promoting prescription testosterone -- everything from gels to patches to injections. And while sales are booming, an in-depth look done by Consumer Reports shows there's a serious caution when it comes to testosterone supplements.
Men worried about their sexual health are being bombarded by commercials promoting testosterone. Consumer Reports' Dr. John Santa says despite the fact that sales of testosterone treatments topped $2 billion in 2012, most men don't need it.
"Even if you're worried about erectile dysfunction, treatment with testosterone usually isn't the answer. Erectile dysfunction almost always stems from other problems: reduced blood flow, emotional problems, or a drug side effect," said Santa.
And using testosterone treatments, which can cost $400 a month or more, has serious risks.
"A study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that men using one testosterone gel, Testim 1%, for six months had more heart attacks and other cardiovascular events," said Santa.
Other potential side effects include enlarged breasts, sleep apnea, blood clots in the legs, and for younger men, lower fertility is a major concern.
"Starting testosterone is a big deal. It should only be done after a long and careful conversation between doctor and patient," said Santa.
Another concern is that family members are being accidentally exposed to testosterone gels. If there's enough exposure, the hormone can cause women to develop male characteristics and children to enter an early puberty.