Low Testosterone Levels in Men May Indicate Rheumatoid Arthritis
In the United States, arthritis is an all too common health problem that affects nearly 50 million people and causes disability for nearly 20 million. Compared to other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, or chronic back pain, arthritis causes more disabilities. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the third most common type of arthritis and affects nearly 1.5 million people in the U.S. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that generally affects small joints in the feet and hands. This disorder will affect the lining of joints, and leads to painful swelling that can possibly cause joint deformity or bone erosion.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues. Along with causing problems in the joints, RA may also affect other organs in the body, including the lungs, eyes, skin, and blood vessels. Usually RA will begin after the age of 40, but it can occur at any age and is more commonly in women than in men. Treatment for RA will focus on controlling its symptoms and on preventing damage to the joints. The early symptoms of RA generally begin in the small joints of the hands and feet; as it continues to progress, the symptoms can spread to the ankles, knees, hips, elbows, and shoulders. Usually symptoms will occur at the same joints on each side of the body.
Early Stage of Rheumatoid Arthritis
In its early stages, rheumatoid arthritis can be complicated to diagnose because its symptoms are similar to other types of disorders or illnesses. However, a recently published study from researchers at the Swedish Malmo Preventative Medicine Program shows that low amounts of testosterone in men could predict that RA may develop in the future. This study started in 1974 and included over 33,000 participants who were born from 1921 to 1949. Participants in this study took part in several tests and answered surveys regarding health factors and their lifestyles, and also had blood drawn and tested.
The researchers were able to locate the participants that had later been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis by reviewing regional and national databases. The blood samples collected from 104 men that were later diagnosed with RA were identified, along with samples from 174 men within the same age group that were not later diagnosed with RA. An average of 13 years had passed between the time of giving the blood sample and the time that a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis was made.
About the Rheumatoid Factor
The rheumatoid factor, an antibody that predicts the severity of the disease, was used when analyzing the samples. Nearly 73% of the participants had tested positive, while the remaining participants tested negative. Both smoking and body mass were taken into account, since both have an impact on RA. After analyzing the results, researchers found that men who had lower levels of testosterone in the blood were more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis. The results from this study also support previous findings that testosterone is capable of interrupting the immune system, but more research is needed to determine the exact link and the effects that testosterone can have.