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Rheumatoid arthritis linked with lower testosterone levels in men

Men with lower levels of testosterone have a greater risk of RF-negative rheumatoid arthritis, suggest researchers.

The study

The Swedish researchers conducted a case-control study in 104 men with rheumatoid arthritis and 174 controls matched for age, sex, and year of screening. After the participants had fasted overnight, the scientists collected and stored blood samples for analysis of testosterone and other reproductive hormone levels.

The findings

There was a trend towards a negative association between both total and free testosterone levels and subsequent development of rheumatoid arthritis. This was statistically significant for RF-negative cases, with an odds ratio of 0.31 per standard deviation, compared with an odds ratio of 0.87 per standard deviation for RF-positive cases. FSH levels were  also significantly increased in pre-RF-negative rheumatoid arthritis, but decreased in pre-RF-positive rheumatoid arthritis.

What this means for GPs

The researchers said this was the first major study to explore hormone levels in men before rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis and that it suggested lower levels of testosterone in men, and early menopause in women, may be signs of premature aging and may ‘put them at greater risk of developing not only rheumatoid arthritis but also other diseases’. They concluded that their findings should verified in other populations.

Ann Rheum Dis 2013; 0: 1-7