Tell Me Where It Hurts
Q: I'm male and 55. I have rheumatoid arthritis and I have to use a lot of pain medication besides my arthritis drugs. I feel weak, my muscles are thinning and even my sex drive is gone. Is all that from the arthritis?
A: Any chronic illness such as arthritis, diabetes or multiple sclerosis can lead to muscle wasting, fatigue or sexual dysfunction. Many of the drugs utilized to treat these ailments may cause additional problems on their own, and strong pain pills are not the exception.
Opiate analgesics, or narcotics as they are known, can suppress testosterone, the hormone responsible (among other things) for sex drive and muscle strength. Commonly prescribed analgesic drugs in that category include codeine, morphine and oxycodone, but all narcotics can lead to low testosterone levels. A simple blood test can detect it, and hormonal supplements should be readily available from your physician.
© Dr. Moacir Schnapp and Dr. Kit Mays