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Hyposecretion of adrenal androgens and the relation of serum adrenal steroids, serotonin and insulin-like growth factor-1 to clinical features in women with fibromyalgia.

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By Dessein PH, Shipton EA, Joffe BI, Hadebe DP, Stanw • • November 15, 1999

Neuroendocrine deficiencies have been implicated in fibromyalgia (FM). In the present study, adrenal androgen metabolites and their relationship with health status in FM were investigated. For comparison, serum levels of other implicated neuroendocrine mediators were correlated with health status. Fifty-seven consecutive women with FM completed the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ). Fasting blood samples were taken for measurement of dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS), free testosterone (T), cortisol, serotonin and insulin-like growth factor-1. Normal value for DHEAS and T were obtained from 114 controls.

DHEAS levels were decreased significantly in pre- and postmenopausal patients (P<0.0001 and P<0.0005, respectively). T levels were decreased significantly in premenopausal and insignificantly in postmenopausal patients (P<0.0001 and P=0.06, respectively). The following correlations between neuro-hormonal levels and FIQ scores were found: DHEAS (after adjustment for age) vs. pain (P<0.001) and T (after adjustment for age) versus physical functioning (P=0.002). None of the other neuro-hormonal levels correlated significantly with any of the FIQ scores. IGF-1 levels were lower in the obese patients as compared to those who were non-obese (P=0.03). The BMI correlated positively with pain (P<0.001) and inversely with DHEAS levels (P=0.006). After further adjustment for BMI, the correlation between age adjusted DHEAS and pain was no longer significant. Hyposecretion of adrenal androgens was documented in FM. This was more pronounced in obese patients.

Low serum androgen levels correlated with poor health status in FM. Longitudinal studies are needed to elucidate whether these are cause and/or effect relationships.


Dessein PH, Shipton EA, Joffe BI, Hadebe DP, Stanwix AE, Van der Merwe BA. Pain 1999 Nov 1;83(2):313-319. Rheumatology Unit, Milpark Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa.

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