Low testosterone levels in men may be an indication of future development of rheumatoid arthritis, a painful inflammatory disorder that primarily affects joints, a study found.
Men who had lower levels of the sex hormone in their blood were more likely to develop the disorder, according to the study, published on the Annals of the Rheumatic Disease’s website. The findings suggest that hormonal changes precede the onset of rheumatoid arthritis and influence its severity, the Swedish researchers found.
Sex hormones are believed to play a part in the development of rheumatoid arthritis, in which the immune system attacks the joints, resulting in swelling and damage that can make tasks such as walking or holding items painful. Men and women with rheumatoid arthritis have lower levels of testosterone in their blood than people who don’t have the disease. It’s unclear whether this is a contributing factor or a consequence of the condition.
“The main conclusion of the study is that hormone factors influence the risk of RA,” Mitra Pikwer of the Department of Rheumatology at the Skane University Hospital in Malmo, Sweden, said in a telephone interview yesterday.
Men are less likely than women to have rheumatoid arthritis. An estimated 1.5 million adults in the U.S. have the disease, according to the country’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The researchers based their findings on participants in Sweden’s Malmo Preventive Medicine Program, a survey which began in 1974 and tracked the health of more than 33,000 people, mostly of Scandinavian origin, born between 1921 and 1949.
The scientists screened the 22,444 men in the program and identified 151 who later developed rheumatoid arthritis by cross-checking four registries, Pikwer said. They were able to analyze the stored blood samples of 104 of the men who developed the disease, she said.
The study was funded by the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Rheumatism Association, Lund University and the county of Skane.
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