Every day a new life is born. And, for it to begin, the process of “fertilization” needs to take place. But, do you know how this happens? It occurs when a sperm fuses with an egg, which eventually leads to a pregnancy. So, can you guess how many sperm cells race to reach the egg at a given time? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), semen should ideally have a sperm count ranging between 39 million to 701 million per ejaculate.1 So, if a male produces less sperm or no sperm at all, it affects his fertility potential and the chances of conception.2 Hence, it is necessary to be aware of the factors and other medical conditions affecting male fertility in order to make informed decisions while trying to conceive.

Apart from medical conditions; hormonal imbalances, lifestyle choices, and or advancing age are also known to affect the male fertility potential.2 Let’s now have an in-depth look at some of the common male fertility-impacting conditions in detail.

Cancer - One Of The Many Medical Conditions Affecting Male Fertility

While advancements in oncology have improved the survival outcomes of cancer patients, certain cancer treatments (surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy) are seen to severely affect male fertility.3

Surgery

Cancer surgeries that remove a tumor in or near organs like the testicle, penis, bladder, or rectum may affect a man’s fertility and they include:

i) Surgery For Testicular Cancer:

Testicular cancer is most common among men aged between 15 - 34 years.4 This surgery involves surgical removal of one testicle which might impair fertility by disturbing sperm production.5 

ii) Surgery For Prostate Cancer:

Prostate surgery, also known as prostatectomy, involves surgical removal of the prostate gland (secretes fluid that nourishes and transports sperm). So, even if the testicles make sperm, they cannot physically leave the body which in turn affects male fertility.6

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs to slow the growth or kill cancer cells. After chemotherapy, the rate of sperm production might slow down or stop altogether. Such effects of chemotherapeutic drugs usually depend on a few parameters like drug type, dosage, and initial semen quality.3,7

Radiotherapy

Lastly, we have radiotherapy, a popular cancer management procedure. The effect of this treatment on male fertility again depends on the dosage and delivery method. In cancer patients, radiotherapy is observed to negatively affect both semen and sperm quality. 3,8

Other Medical Conditions Affecting Male Fertility 

Varicocele:

Varicocele is observed to be present in 35 to 40% of infertile men.9 This condition causes enlargement of veins within the scrotum. Varicocele is usually painless but may cause fertility issues like abnormal sperm morphology, low sperm count, and decreased sperm motility.10

Celiac Disease:

Celiac disease is another medical condition affecting male fertility. It is a digestive disorder caused by sensitivity to a protein found in wheat i.e. gluten. In men, celiac disease may cause fertility issues by affecting sperm parameters.11 

Hormonal Imbalance:

For normal testicular function in males, the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal network needs to work in coordination to provide the right concentration of hormones. This network is usually made up of:12

  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone (GnRH) which is secreted from the hypothalamus i.e. a part of your brain
  • Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Luteinizing Hormone (LH) are produced by the pituitary gland i.e. situated at the base of your brain
  • Testosterone which is produced by the gonads (reproductive organs)

When the brain is unable to secrete GnRH, it results in the lack of testosterone levels and stops sperm production. Similarly, if the pituitary gland is unable to secrete LH and FSH, it may restrict the production of testosterone and sperm.12

So, if there are any defects or disorders affecting the hormonal system, it may result in infertility. Hence, hormonal assessment plays an important part in evaluating male fertility. 12,13

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs):

Lastly, certain Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) can also affect male fertility by blocking sperm transport. These infections are caused by bacteria like Chlamydia trachomatis, N. gonorrhoeae, mycoplasma, and syphilis.14,15

If you’re facing any of these or are recently diagnosed with any medical condition affecting male fertility, here’s what you can do…

Analyze, Analyze, Analyze…

Analyzing the semen can serve as a guide to identifying certain medical conditions affecting male fertility. A semen analysis can steer you to the right treatment option, especially if you and your partner are having trouble conceiving.

To Conclude

The first and foremost step for those diagnosed with medical conditions affecting male fertility is semen analysis. It can help detect problems related to sperm production or sperm quality. 

To get started, you can either speak to your doctor or visit any nearby laboratory to test your semen. Another way is to order an at-home test kit which is all the more convenient and confidential. Among all the at-home test kits, LifeCell offers a SpermScore kit - it’s an easier way to get an insight into your current reproductive health. If you wish to know more about SpermScore, visit our product page.

References:

  1. https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240030787  
  2. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/infertility/conditioninfo/causes/causes-male  
  3. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.14310/horm.2002.1620.pdf 
  4. https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2018/0215/p261.html  
  5. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/testicular-cancer/treating/surgery.html  
  6. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/treating/surgery.html  
  7. 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 
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9133602/  
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8438154/pdf/fimmu-12-729539.pdf  
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK448113/ 
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26510080/  
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7008178/pdf/ijgm-13-29.pdf  
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8779600/pdf/life-12-00010.pdf  
  14. https://www.asrm.org/topics/topics-index/sexually-transmitted-infections/  
  15. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-981-10-4017-7_12  

References