Low Testosterone Levels And Risk Of Developing Rheumatoid Arthritis
Sex hormones plays an important role in the development of various metabolic and inflammatory conditions. For example, according to a new study reported in the peer reviewed journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases (1), investigators suggested that low testosterone levels are associated with a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. This association is important because experts proposed that the outcome and severity of rheumatoid arthritis can be altered by advising testosterone supplements to the risk group.
What Should You Know About Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis refers to an inflammatory condition that affects multiple non-weight bearing joints of the body. Although this type of arthritis is more common in women but various clinical studies indicates that men with low testosterone levels are also at high risk. Classic symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are specific for:
- Limited range of motion of joint that is worse after periods of inactivity
- Morning stiffness
- Nonspecific symptoms such as weight loss, fatigue and fever
Extra-articular manifestations are also reported in more than 40% of the affected individuals; such as heart, lungs, kidneys, skin, salivary glands, nerve tissue etc.
Investigators at Lund University, Sweden, conducted a population based survey by collecting bloods samples and other information from a subset of population. Based on the incident cases of rheumatoid arthritis registered at national database, investigators compared the screening information and identified that the risk of developing RA is twice as high in men with low testosterone levels.
The exact pathophysiology of rheumatoid arthritis in the setting of low testosterone levels is not clear. Scientists believes that the inflammatory effects of rheumatoid arthritis are suppressed if testosterone levels are normal. This is mainly because:
- Rheumatoid arthritis involves degeneration of connective tissues; whereas testosterone being an anabolic hormone aids in the repair of tissues.
- According to another study reported in the International Journal of Clinical Rheumatology (2), investigators suggested that hormones have immunomodulatory properties. In other words, normal testosterone levels serves to restore the normal immune functions. It is also imperative to mention that rheumatoid arthritis is caused by abnormal activity of immune cells (when inflammatory cells starts attacking the synovial membranes).
- According to a new research reported in the Clinical Rheumatology journal (3), investigators proposed another theory. Jacques Baillargeon and associates suggested that males with low testosterone levels generally have abnormal serum concentration of various inflammatory markers, such as interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor, C-reactive protein (CRP). This inference was drawn after analyzing the data obtained from a sample of 123,460 men. In simple words, hypogonadism makes men more prone to develop inflammatory and degenerative disorders like rheumatoid arthritis.
In the past, several research studies have been carried out to find a link between rheumatoid arthritis and low testosterone levels; however, it is not clear if low testosterone levels are an outcome of this disease or a risk factor in the pathogenesis.
What To Do To Reduce Your Risk Of Developing Rheumatoid Arthritis?
It is highly recommended to seek medical help if you are experiencing symptoms of hypogonadism. This is mainly because low testosterone levels also aggravates the risk of a number of diseases; such as cardiovascular dysfunction, stroke, osteoporosis, etc. A number of treatment options are available to restore normal testosterone levels; such as hormone replacement via injection, gels, pellets, pills etc. In addition, healthcare providers also identify the source and cause of hypogonadism to restore normal hormonal balance.
Besides testosterone supplements, you can also improve your testosterone levels by adopting a healthy lifestyle such as avoiding smoking, consuming a balanced and healthy diet and engaging in physical activity on regular basis.
1. Pikwer, M., Giwercman, A., Bergström, U., Nilsson, J. Å., Jacobsson, L. T., & Turesson, C. (2013). Association between testosterone levels and risk of future rheumatoid arthritis in men: a population-based case–control study. Annals of the rheumatic diseases, annrheumdis-2012.
2. Turesson, C., & Pikwer, M. (2014). The role of testosterone and other hormonal factors in the development of rheumatoid arthritis. International Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, 9(1), 73-87.
3. Baillargeon, J., Al Snih, S., Raji, M. A., Urban, R. J., Sharma, G., Sheffield-Moore, M., … & Kuo, Y. F. (2016). Hypogonadism and the risk of rheumatic autoimmune disease. Clinical Rheumatology, 1-5.