Testosterone Can Worsen Aggression in Alzheimers

Recommended by Dr. Michael White, Updated on October 25th, 2020
Reading Time: 2 minutes

By Traci Pedersen Associate News Editor Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on January 1, 2015

In men with Alzheimers disease, having higher levels of testosterone could increase the risk for aggression, hallucinations and other acting-out behaviors, according to a new study at the University of North Texas Health Science Center.

Previous research has shown that having higher testosterone levels actually lowers the risk for developing Alzheimers, but once a person has the disease, testosterone can exacerbate certain symptoms.

Once someone already has Alzheimers, higher levels of testosterone are related to acting-out behaviors, said Dr. James Hall, professor of psychiatry and behavioral health. Those behaviors, such as agitation and delusions, occur at some point in at least 70 percent of Alzheimers patients.

The study raises concerns about the increasingly common practice of putting older men on testosterone-replacement therapy, noted Hall.

What were showing is that testosterone can have a negative impact on patients with Alzheimers disease, he said. It may be crucial to consider the possible unintended consequences before a patient is placed on testosterone-replacement therapy.

Alzheimers is a form of dementia that affects a persons thinking, judgment, memory, language and behavior. It currently comes in sixth on the list of leading causes of death in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

At present, there is no cure for Alzheimers disease, which affects approximately five million Americans. Researchers at University of North Texas Health Science Center are conducting studies to better understand the disease; their goal is to discover more effective ways to manage and treat the illness and eventually find a cure.

For the study, researchers evaluated 87 elderly men who were diagnosed with mild to moderate Alzheimers disease. The researchers found that the likelihood of experiencing hallucinations was 5.5 times greater for the men with higher levels of testosterone than those with lower levels.

These acting-out behaviors become very problematic and are often especially difficult for caregivers to manage.

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Testosterone Can Worsen Aggression in Alzheimers

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