Sep 29, 2016

Our PTSD Initiative Vietnam Veteran Study, made possible by RSL Queensland, revealed a significant physical toll associated with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including an increased risk of testosterone deficiency.

What are hormones?

Hormones are chemical messengers made by glands in the body that circulate to other organs. They are required for growth, reproduction, and well-being.

What is testosterone?

Testosterone is a type of steroid hormone called an androgen. It is secreted primarily by the sex organs both in males and females, and also the adrenal glands. Testosterone is the principal male sex hormone, with levels generally around 8 times higher than in females – contributing to male sexual characteristics such as muscle and bone mass, and hair growth. Testosterone is essential for the general health and well-being of both sexes.

What is testosterone deficiency?

Unlike menopause in women, there is no ‘male menopause’ that occurs – some men may not experience any drop in levels. A deficiency occurs when the body is unable to make enough testosterone for the body to function normally. Although this is not life-threatening, quality of life may be affected. Symptoms may include mental symptoms such as mood swings, irritability, and poor concentration, in addition to physical symptoms of low energy levels, decreased muscle strength, and low sex drive. In some cases, deficiency may also lead to breast development in males, and bone thinning – or, osteoporosis. Symptoms of testosterone deficiency may mimic other disorders, therefore, it is important to talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about your health.

The impact of PTSD on testosterone levels

Blood and saliva samples were taken from our participants to examine the concentration of a variety of hormones and markers in the body, including testosterone. The findings show that Vietnam veteran participants with PTSD tended to have an increased history of diagnosed low testosterone – 14.8% versus 6.6% for those without PTSD. Endocrinologist A/Prof Christopher Strakosch, one of our primary investigators, had observed that many of his veteran patients suffering from PTSD had low testosterone levels, which is the reason this particular hormone was examined in the study.

Using the research to help doctors treat patients with PTSD

As well as helping to inform future research, we’re using the findings from the Vietnam Veteran Study to create an Education Program in partnership with RSL Queensland. The program will equip doctors and other health professionals to better identify and treat both the physical and psychological health needs of patients with PTSD.

Click here to read the latest PTSD Initiative Newsletter