Why do men get sicker from COVID than women? It’s probably low-T

Published: Sep. 2, 2022 at 10:18 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - A study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine and Saint Louis University School of Medicine found that men with low testosterone were 2-and-a-half times more likely to be hospitalized from COVID.

From the start of the pandemic, men seemed to get sicker from COVID than women. Local researchers wanted to find out why.

Dr. Abhinav Diwan is a Washington University physician at Barnes Jewish Hospital, specializing in cardiology. He was the co-senior author of the study.

“Initial studies suggested men do worse than women, the suspicion was that it was because of testosterone,” he said.

Often, the men who were hospitalized had underlying health conditions but they were conditions that often had a connection to low testosterone.

Saint Louis University physician Dr. Sandeep Dhindsa is the head of endocrinology at SLU Hospital.

“The men who are getting admitted are the elderly men, the ones with obesity and diabetes. And for the last 20 years or so, I’ve worked in diagnosing low testosterone in exactly this kind of population,” he said.

The researcher went back about 5 years in the medical records for patients who were hospitalized with severe illness and found they chronically had low testosterone levels, sometimes close to zero.

Symptoms of low testosterone can include sexual dysfunction, depressed mood, irritability, and fatigue.

Treatment with testosterone hormone therapy reduced the risk of serious illness. But hormone therapy can also increase the risk of prostate cancer and heart disease.

Diwan and Dhindsa recommend any man with symptoms of low testosterone talk with their doctor about whether starting hormone therapy is right for them.