Sixteen male patients with stable chronic obstructive airways disease were separated into two groups of eight according to arterial carbon dioxide tensions. Hypercapnia was associated with lower arterial oxygen tensions, higher red cell volume, and increased weight, while normocapnic subjects were decidedly thin. The considerable difference in body weight between the two groups could not be explained by variation in caloric intake, and malabsorption was excluded as a cause of weight loss in the underweight subjects. Serum tri-iodothyronine, thyroxine, cortisol, and oestradiol concentrations were similar and normal in each group, but both groups had significantly low testosterone values as compared with controls, values in the hypercapnic being appreciably lower than in the normocapnic group. The adrenal androgen dehydroepiandrosterone was significantly high in the normocapnic group and low in the hypercapnic group compared with controls. Serum pituitary luteinising and follicle stimulating hormones were normal, but three hypercapnic individuals had high serum prolactin values. Early morning urinary aldosterone values were significantly higher in the hypercapnic than in the normocapnic group. Such hormone comparisons have not previously been made in subjects with chronic obstructive airways disease grouped according to arterial blood gas values, and it is concluded that major alterations in adrenal and testicular function may occur, possibly due to pituitary suppression from hypoxia. Such hormonal changes might in part account for the contrasting alterations in body habitus found in this condition.
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