High levels of testosterone may be connected with higher risk for hallucinations, aggression and other acting-out actions in men that already have Alzheimer’s disease.
Lower testosterone levels increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to studies. However, once the onset of Alzheimer’s is established, higher levels of the hormone in the system can aggregate it. Dr. James Hall, a Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, said in a press release: “But once someone already has Alzheimer’s, higher levels of testosterone are related to acting-out behaviors. Those behaviors, such as agitation and delusions, occur at some point in at least 70 percent of Alzheimer’s patients.”
These results raise some concerns regarding the frequent practice of prescribing testosterone-replacement therapies to older men. “What we’re showing is that testosterone can have a negative impact on patients with Alzheimer’s disease. It may be crucial to consider the possible unintended consequences before a patient is placed on testosterone-replacement therapy,” noted Dr. Hall.
Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible condition — there is no cure and the disease is ultimately fatal. Approximately 5 million Americans suffer from this neurodegenerative condition. UNT Health Science Center researchers are committed to researching the disease and are working to find efficient, effective ways to treat, manage and ultimately cure Alzheimer’s disease.
In the study, 87 older men with mild and moderate forms of Alzheimer’s disease were assessed. Dr. Hall observed that the occurrence of having hallucinations was 5.5 times higher for those with higher levels of testosterone when compared with those with lower levels of it.
The acting-out behaviors in Alzheimer’s patients are a problem, since these patients become extremely difficult for caregivers to treat and manage.
“It can be extremely stressful, both physically and psychologically, to care for the person at home,” Dr. Hall explained. “Acting-out behaviors are the most frequent reason for placement in a nursing home or institutionalized setting.”
Dr. Hall concludes by underscoring the necessity of further studies to assess the connection between testosterone and acting-out behaviors in Alzheimer’s patients, which might help identify and improved treatments for these patients.