OBJECTIVE: Androgens have been hypothesized to be involved in the pathophysiology of cluster headache due to the male predominance, but whether androgens are altered in patients with cluster headache remains unclear.

METHODS: We performed a prospective, case-controlled study in adult males with cluster headache. Sera were measured for hormones including testosterone, luteinizing hormone (LH), and sex hormone-binding globulin in 60 participants with episodic cluster headache (during a bout and in remission), 60 participants with chronic cluster headache, and 60 age- and sex-matched healthy controls. Free testosterone (fT) was calculated according to the Vermeulen equation. Shared genetic risk variants were assessed between cluster headache and testosterone concentrations.

RESULTS: The mean fT/LH ratio was reduced by 35% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 21%-47%, p < 0.0001) in patients with chronic cluster headache and by 24% (95% CI: 9%-37%, p = 0.004) in patients with episodic cluster headache compared to controls after adjusting for age, sleep duration, and use of acute medication. Androgen concentrations did not differ between bouts and remissions. Furthermore, a shared genetic risk allele, rs112572874 (located in the intron of the microtubule associated protein tau (MAPT) gene on chromosome 17), between fT and cluster headache was identified.

INTERPRETATION: Our results demonstrate that the male endocrine system is altered in patients with cluster headache to a state of compensated hypogonadism, and this is not an epiphenomenon associated with sleep or the use of acute medication. Together with the identified shared genetic risk allele, this may suggest a pathophysiological link between cluster headache and fT. ANN NEUROL 2024;95:1149-1161.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnals of Neurology
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1149-1161
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cluster Headache/genetics
  • Humans
  • Hypogonadism/genetics
  • Luteinizing Hormone/blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin/genetics
  • Testosterone/blood


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