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5 health conditions which can affect male fertility

There are many reasons why a man may experience infertility. In this blog we explore some common health conditions that can contribute.

Infertility is an emotionally exhausting experience that affects a staggering 1 in every 7-heterosexual couple in the UK [1]. 

The reasons behind infertility are diverse, and they can stem from either the man or the woman in the relationship. 

In this blog, we draw attention to some of the main health conditions which can affect male fertility.

1.     Obesity

Obesity is classified as having a BMI over 30. Experts link obesity to infertility in a number of studies [2] and it is generally agreed that men who are obese have lower-quality sperm [1].

Obesity leads to disruptions in the normal hormone levels in the body [5]. Many of these hormones are involved in healthy sperm production - so a disruption in hormones can cause abnormal sperm characteristics such as reduced sperm concentration, mobility and shape [4].

Also, obesity occurs frequently alongside several other diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, which have also been linked to lower fertility in men.

Cardiovascular disease refers to a group of diseases that all affect the cardiovascular system in the body – this includes your blood vessels, heart and lungs. High cholesterol is a common cause of CVD which can affect fertility in men because a build-up of fatty plaques (atherosclerosis) in the blood vessels in the penis can reduce blood flow leading to erectile dysfunction.

Medichecks’ Cholesterol Blood Test is a way to measure your cholesterol levels as well as determining your risk of heart disease. This test is a simple finger prick test that can be done in the comfort of your own home. 

2.    Hypogonadism (low testosterone)

This is a condition that affects about 1 in every 200 men in the UK [7].
 
Abnormally low levels of testosterone can cause reduced sex drive, erectile dysfunction and lower quality of sperm (such as reduced concentration of sperm in your semen). This is a condition that can develop later in a man’s life. 

Hypogonadism is caused by various factors such as problems with the testes, genetic disorders or alcohol abuse [7].

Low testosterone not only affects the reproductive system, but it can also affect the whole body too and lead to other symptoms such as:

•    Fatigue
•    Depression, anxiety and irritability
•    Reduced muscle mass and strength
•    Poor concentration and memory

If you think you may be experiencing hypogonadism you should visit your doctor who will be able to assess your symptoms. Hypogonadism can be treated through hormonal therapy, known as testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). 

Medichecks offer a Male Fertility Low Testosterone Blood Test which can measure the amount of testosterone in the body and support your journey to a diagnosis of low testosterone. This test can be taken discreetly in the comfort of your own home, without needing to visit a doctor.

3.    Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Several infections which can be caught through sexual intercourse can lead to infertility in men. 

For example, in some cases, the STIs chlamydia and gonorrhoea can spread to the testicles causing a condition called epididymitis (inflammation in the testicles) and block the ability of sperm to travel away from your testes.

STIs can even result in irreversible damage to sperm production [3].

Many STIs do not cause symptoms in men which is why if you are sexually active regular health screening is important to catch STIs early. If left untreated STIs can cause irreversible damage to your fertility. 

Medichecks’ discreet and simple 6-in-1 STI Blood and Urine Test will test for the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in men including chlamydia, HIV, gonorrhoea, syphilis, hepatitis B and trichomoniasis. 

4.    Depression

Low mood and stress can cause many men problems with fertility such as erectile dysfunction and loss of libido [6]. Stress can even impact hormones involved in sperm production so could affect sperm quality [3].

Unsurprisingly people who are infertile can experience a huge amount of emotional turmoil as a result of an infertility diagnosis [8] which can further contribute to feelings of stress and depression. What’s more, compared with men, women are much more likely to seek psychological help and therapy for fertility problems [9].

If you are a man who is experiencing low mood and depression you should reach out for help. Simply talking to a friend or your GP could provide you with exactly the support you need. If your symptoms are mild, there are a number of apps that you can use on your phone for support and guidance.

5.    Cancer

Receiving a cancer diagnosis can often be debilitating and stop you in your tracks. It is reassuring to know that the early detection and treatment of all types of cancer is improving.

Your fertility may not be the first thing that you think about after receiving a diagnosis or when you are living with cancer, but it important to be aware of the implications so you can think about the future. It is very important to talk to your cancer care team to know how cancer, cancer surgery or treatment may affect fertility [10].

Certain types of cancer, such as testicular cancer, can affect the ability to produce and release sperm from the testes. The surgical removal of a testicle (medically known as orchiectomy) is not believed to reduce your fertility [11]. Chemotherapy treatment, along with some other cancer drugs, can negatively affect your body ability to produce sperm [12]. The option to ‘bank’ sperm before treatment is available (sometimes for a fee) – and involves freezing your sperm for the future [11]. 

Summary

If you are a man who is experiencing problems with fertility, it is important not to suffer in silence. You can find more information on male fertility here. It is reassuring to know that there are many treatments and options available for couples who are unable to conceive naturally, talking to your doctor will help you to find the options which are right for you. 


References

[1] https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg156/resources/fertility-problems-assessment-and-treatment-pdf-35109634660549
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4408383/
[3] https://www.himfertility.com/
[4] Keszthelyi, M., Gyarmathy, V.A., Kaposi, A. and Kopa, Z., 2020. The potential role of central obesity in male infertility: body mass index versus waist to hip ratio as they relate to selected semen parameters. BMC public health, 20(1), pp.1-10.
[5] https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2004.03.056
[6] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/male-menopause/
[7] https://www.royalberkshire.nhs.uk/patient-information-leaflets/Endocrinology%20hypogonadism
[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6016043/
[9] https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/advances-in-psychiatric-treatment/article/infertility-and-mental-health/12C29995CD4A52912CF84503C721EB62
[10] https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/fertility-and-sexual-side-effects/fertility-and-men-with-cancer/how-cancer-treatments-affect-fertility.html
[11] https://www.testicularcancerawarenessfoundation.org/fertility-sex
[12] https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cancer-in-general/treatment/chemotherapy/fertility/men