Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists: Uses & Side Effects


Gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) is a hormone produced in the hypothalamus and transported to the pituitary gland through the blood stream. GnRH controls the secretion of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) from the anterior pituitary. Secretion of GnRH is controlled by neural input from other parts of the brain and in females particularly, through negative feedback by the sex steroids.

More potent analogues of GnRH (compared to endogenous GnRH) have been synthesized and are used to treat endometriosis, fibroids, infertility and prostate cancer.

Side Effects

Common side effects of the GnRH agonists and antagonists include symptoms of hypogonadism such as hot flashes, gynecomastia, fatigue, weight gain, fluid retention, erectile dysfunction and decreased libido. 

Long term therapy can result in metabolic abnormalities, weight gain, worsening of diabetes and osteoporosis. Rare, but potentially serious adverse events include transient worsening of prostate cancer due to surge in testosterone with initial injection of GnRH agonists and pituitary apoplexy in patients with pituitary adenoma. Single instances of clinically apparent liver injury have been reported with some GnRH agonists (histrelin, goserelin), but the reports were not very convincing. There is no evidence to indicate that there is cross sensitivity to liver injury among the various GnRH analogues despite their similarity in structure.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Keywords: Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists; Gn-RH agonists.

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.