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Anabolic steroid use leads to kidney problems

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Athletes who use anabolic steroids should be concerned about their kidneys, according to the American Society of Nephrology. Increased muscle mass from anabolic steroids also means increased risk of kidney damage.

Until now, the effect of steroids on the kidneys has not been known. The use of anabolic steroids by professional athletes has been widely reported. Anabolic steroid abuse can lead to severe kidney decline, evidenced by protein leakage in the urine from long term abuse.

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For the current research, scientists studied ten bodybuilders who used steroids for many years. They found severe declines in kidney function and urinary protein. Anabolic steroid use scarred the kidneys, leading to a condition called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. The condition is akin to that seen in morbidly obese individuals, but is even more severe.

When the bodybuilders stopped taking steroids, kidney function returned to normal, then again declined when they started taking steroids again. One bodybuilder had end stage kidney disease and required dialysis.

Anabolic steroids increase muscle mass. The researchers believe too much muscle stresses the kidneys, in addition to having a direct toxic effect on the organ. The study authors say it is important for physicians who care for athletes and bodybuilders using anabolic steroids to take note of the findings that steroid use leads to kidney problems, and is worse than that caused by morbid obesity.