New research shows that high doses of ibuprofen can cause lower fertility in men. A study of 31 men found that continued use of high dosages affected luteinizing hormone and the production of testosterone.
Testicles And Hormones
Testicles are most commonly associated with the production of sperm, and it’s true that that is their primary role. However, testicles also play a huge part in testosterone production. Testosterone and estrogen are present in both men and women, but testosterone levels are much higher in men while estrogen is higher in women. The lower concentration of testosterone in women causes more a more womanly shape and a generally less aggressive personality. Any issue affecting testosterone can pose issues for men, affecting everything from sex drive to muscle growth.
Ibuprofen and other medicines in the same category are known as anti-androgenic, meaning they affect male hormones. CNN reports that while it has been known for quite some time that ibuprofen use can cause birth defects in male babies, the full effects of ibuprofen on male fertility hadn’t been studied in depth until now.
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A Fertility Crisis
There has been research recently that shows that infertility among men in general is growing. Among couples trying to conceive, issues with sperm make up 40% of fertility problems. The diagnosis and treatment for these problems is usually much easier than with women, but it’s still a notable increase over the past that is cause for concern.
If you use high doses of ibuprofen frequently, such as if you’re an athlete trying to address muscle soreness, there’s a possibility that the problem could be even worse. The downsides to taking any sort of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug in high doses and long term has been well-documented for quite some time, leading to liver issues due to processing so much medication as well as potential gastrointestinal issues. Ibuprofen has another downside to add to the list it seems, according to the recent research that shows high doses reduce fertility in men.
Research On Ibuprofen
A new study published in the Proceedings of of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday suggests that heavy usage of ibuprofen “alters human testicular physiology” and causes a disorder called compensated hypogonadism. This is a disorder frequently found in the elderly, and is cause for concern in populations that make heavy use of painkillers – such as athletes undergoing training.
The study took place across two countries, Denmark and France, and took a look at 31 adult men – all under the age of 35. Some of the men took 1200 milligrams of ibuprofen daily, which is the maximum amount directed, over a six-week period. The other men in the study took a placebo.
The authors of the study stated that “[they] report an univocal depression of important aspects of testicular function, including testosterone production, after use of over-the-counter ibuprofen.” Specifically, high doses of ibuprofen affected the level of luteinizing hormone.
Luteinizing hormone is released by the pituitary gland and causes the testicles to release testosterone. It’s easy to see, then, how a correlation between the level of ibuprofen in the blood and the level of luteinizing hormone can affect the production of male sex hormones.
As mentioned above, there has been research as recently as this past summer that shows a shocking drop in male fertility when compared to previous generations. USA Today reports about a study in Human Reproduction Update that found total sperm-count among men in Western continents reduced almost 60% over the past 40 years.
Fortunately, the disorder related to ibuprofen use is totally reversible over a short period of time – as it was during the study. What remains to be seen is whether those taking high doses over the course of years will be able to bounce back from the fertility effects of ibuprofen. More research is required in order to understand the long-term effects of this medicine on sperm quality, but until then, make sure you keep your ibuprofen use in check.
Addressing The Issue
The best way to address a low testosterone level is with artificial hormones. By increasing testosterone levels, doctors are able to help men who are suffering from issues such as sexual dysfunction, difficulty building muscle, and lack of secondary sex characteristics such as facial and body hair. However, it’s possible to have low testosterone and still produce a healthy amount of sperm. Low testosterone can affect male fertility, but increasing testosterone levels doesn’t always address the issues.
The chances of conceiving, according to the Mayo Clinic, are bettered by increasing the frequency of sex at least four days before a woman’s ovulation and avoiding the use of lubricants, as certain ingredients can affect the quality of sperm.
Other treatments include hormone replacement, treatments for sexual intercourse problems such as erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation, and assisted reproductive technology where sperm is injected directly into the female genital tract or used to perform in vitro fertilization.
These treatments may help those suffering from fertility issues after long-term ibuprofen use, but the best way to address issues related to that NSAID is to just stop taking it. As mentioned above, we’re not sure if the compensated hypogonadism is reversible after long-term use, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.