A commonly used painkiller may have an impact on testicular health.
That’s according to a small study of 31 men, who received 600 milligrams of ibuprofen — sold under brand names Neurofen and Advil — twice a day for six weeks, or a placebo.
Prolonged ibuprofen use disrupted the production of reproductive hormones involved in testosterone production.
The men who received the real drug showed an increase in luteinizing hormone. This hormone normally acts as a kind of commander-in-chief, instructing Leydig cells in the testicles to produce testosterone. However, although this hormone was disrupted in the experiment, overall testosterone production itself was not affected.
Ali Abbara, senior clinical lecturer in endocrinology at Imperial College London says that the paper suggests that ibuprofen use could mildly impair testicular function such that the body has to work slightly harder to maintain normal testosterone levels.
In further experiments, testosterone production was reduced in testis tissue that was exposed to the highest concentrations of ibuprofen in a dish.
The researchers speculate that long term use of ibuprofen could have health implications for men, given the known link between the disruption of reproductive hormones and conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and infertility.
This is the first time that ibuprofen has been shown to have an impact on testicular health in adults, but further, larger trials are needed to understand the impact on fertility in the long-term.
“The effects were very mild even after six weeks of regular consumption of ibuprofen, which is longer than is usually recommended in practice, so this data should not concern men who occasionally take ibuprofen for pain relief,” says Abbara.
“If men are known to have impaired testicular function and take ibuprofen regularly, then it would not be unreasonable to consider other painkillers until more data is available to better inform this potential risk, although we must bear in mind that many alternative painkillers may also affect the reproductive axis.”