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Painkillers Could Be Destroying More Than Just Your Pain

February 11, 2018
Katie Visco
Pain pills

Last year, scientists discovered male fertility could be at a tipping point. Sperm counts in western countries have declined 50 percent in 40 years, and researchers say pain relievers may be playing a larger part than anyone could have guessed. Too much of a good thing quickly becomes bad, especially when it involves medication. 

 In a new study, the common drug ibuprofen was shown to have a negative effect on testicular health. It can disrupt hormone production, in turn causing a condition called compensated hypogonadism, which impacts male fertility. To find out the potential effects ibuprofen and other painkillers could have on men, researchers recruited 31 male participants between the ages 18 and 35and gave half of them approximately three tablets of the drug every day for six weeks. The other group took a placebo. Within 14 days, the men ingesting ibuprofen showed an increase in luteinizing hormones, which help regulate testosterone production. 

This means the drug had impaired regular, healthy testicular functions and had forced their bodies to counteract by increasing testosterone levels. The results of using ibuprofen for the study weren't permanent, but prolonged use could be much more serious. Biomedical researcher David Kristensen from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark stated, "Our immediate concern is for the fertility of men who use these drugs for a long time. These compounds are good painkillers, but a certain amount of people in society use them without thinking of them as proper medicines." Abusing painkillers could eventually result in low testosterone production and damaged fertility. 

Researchers also say men with compensated hypogonadism could progress to overt primary hypogonadism, "which is characterized by low-circulating testosterone and prevalent symptoms including reduced libido, reduced muscle mass and strength, and depressed mood and fatigue." However, experts are also concluding that the most extreme side effects of using painkillers are unlikely for most, and more research on the study is needed to properly investigate their impact on testicular function. 

 The effects of painkillers on the body is definitely something to remain aware of because it pertains to everyone who uses them, whether they are an athlete attempting to soothe sore muscles, or a business person hoping to chase a fever away so they can make it into the office. Now, through small fertility studies, we know another way it could be harmful, and may better understand that painkillers aren't a substance to be taken casually.


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