Arthritis

Updated 12 January 2016

Low testosterone linked to arthritis

Men with low testosterone may be at greater risk for rheumatoid arthritis, says study.

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Both men and women with rheumatoid arthritis have lower levels of testosterone in their blood than people without the disease. But it has not been known whether low testosterone levels are a cause or effect of rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of joint function. Severe cases can last a lifetime.

Read: Arthritis myths debunked

In this study, Swedish researchers analysed blood samples collected from 104 men who were later diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and 174 men of the same age who did not develop the disease.

The average time between collection of the blood sample and a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis was just less than 13 years, but ranged from 1 to 28 years.

After taking into account known rheumatoid arthritis risk factors such as smoking and weight, the researchers found that men with lower testosterone levels were more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis.

Read: Preventing rheumatoid arthritis

They did not, however, prove a cause-and-effect link between the two.

These men also had significantly higher levels of follicle stimulating hormone- a chemical involved in sexual maturity and reproduction before they were diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, according to the study.

Read: Broccoli may prevent arthritis

The findings suggest that hormonal changes occur before rheumatoid arthritis develops and could influence disease severity, the researchers said in a journal news release.

Rheumatoid arthritis results from the immune system attacking the body's own tissues. Previous research suggests that testosterone may dampen the immune system, the researchers said.

Read more:

33 facts on arthritis 

Arthritis: When to get help

Condom lubricant no cure for arthritis

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Professor Asgar Ali Kalla completed his MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 1975 at the University of Cape Town and his FRCP in 2003 in London. Professor Ali Kalla is the Isaac Albow Chair of Rheumatology at the University of Cape Town and also the Head of Division of Rheumatology at Groote Schuur Hospital. He has participated in a number of clinical trials for rheumatology and is active in community outreach. Prof Ali Kalla is an expert in Arthritis for Health24.

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