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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1997 Feb;21(1):128-33.

Testicular function in asymptomatic chronic alcoholics: relation to ethanol intake.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Hospital Clinic, Barcelona, Spain.


To evaluate the effect of ethanol on testicular function in chronic alcoholics without chronic liver disease, we studied 38 asymptomatic chronic alcoholics and 19 age-matched controls. Detailed clinical history, nutritional status, hormonal analysis, and seminal studies were conducted in each case and control. Alcoholic patients had an average of 39 +/- 2 years old (range: 26 to 60) and reported a daily ethanol consumption from 100 to 350 g (mean: 198 +/- 15) over a period of 18.0 +/- 1.2 years. Alcoholics exhibited a significant increase of the luteinizing hormone (p < 0.001) and a decrease of the Free Androgen Index, compared with controls (p < 0.05) that related significantly with the total lifetime dose of ethanol (p < 0.01, both). Seminal studies indicate that 39.4% of alcoholics had significantly reduced their spermatozoa count (p < 0.01), whereas significant morphological abnormalities were observed in 44.7% of the alcoholics (p < 0.01). Spermatozoa motility from alcoholics was also found to be altered in half of the patients (p < 0.01). A significant increase of serum luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and sex hormone binding globulin levels, and a decrease of Free Androgen Index were observed in alcoholics with morphology and motility abnormalities (p < 0.05, all). In multivariate analysis, the only independent factor that determined the alterations in sperm (count, morphology abnormalities, and motility alterations) was the total lifetime of ethanol intake (p < 0.001, all). We conclude that alcoholics frequently develop a situation of primary hypogonadism related to a lifetime of ethanol consumption.

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