Axiron vs. Androgel

  • Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

Axiron vs. Androgel comparison

The active ingredient in both Axiron and Androgel is synthetic testosterone, and both medications consist of topical gel that allows the testosterone to absorb through the skin. Doctors prescribe these drugs to adult males who for some reason, whether a physical condition or a result of aging, are lacking normal testosterone levels.

The only difference between these two gel medications is where on your body you're supposed to put it. Axiron gel is applied in the armpits, while Androgel is applied to the upper arm, shoulders, or abdomen.

The main side effect of both these medications are itching, blisters, and redness at the application site.

What are Axiron and Androgel?

Both Axiron and Androgel are skin ointments that deliver laboratory-manufactured testosterone through the skin. Pharmaceutical researchers developed this therapy in part because testosterone production in men tends to decline as they age, causing muscle loss, bone weakness, loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, and fat accumulation. Scientists sometimes refer to this slowdown in testosterone production as "andropause," but physiologically, it's only superficially similar to menopause in women, which is a much more drastic hormonal change.

Testosterone (also referred to as an "androgen") production in men starts ramping up during puberty, and testosterone production by the testes is the end hormonal result of a production chain involving the brain and endocrine system. The hypothalamus of the brain, a structure behind the base of the forebrain, secretes gonadotropin-releasing hormone, which stimulates the nearby pituitary gland to release luteinizing hormone, which then stimulates the testicles to produce testosterone.

Testosterone, a lipid-soluble (fat-soluble) hormone, can pass through the membranes of cells because cell membranes are made of fats. Inside the cell, floating around in the cytoplasm, are protein molecules called androgen receptors (AR), which are shaped in such a way they fit like a puzzle piece with testosterone molecules. When a testosterone molecule locks into the androgen receptor, the whole assembly migrates into the cell nucleus where the DNA is stored. The testosterone-AR assembly interacts directly with the DNA to help the cell "read" the code, allowing it to produce the necessary proteins to maintain muscle mass, hair growth, genital function and other male sex characteristics.

Axiron and Androgel help replace the missing testosterone to help maintain mood, sexual function, muscle mass, and bone strength.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/19/2017

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