Infertile men may be at a greater risk of developing other health problems such as substance abuse disorders, heart disease and diabetes, compared with fertile men, a new study suggests.
Director of male reproductive medicine and surgery at Stanford University Medical School in California, lead researcher Dr Michael Eisenberg, stated that they found that infertile men developed man chronic diseases in the years after an infertility evaluation.
He added that what is remarkable is that these men are young and healthy. Earlier studies suggested an increased risk of testicular cancer or even death. However, for the first time, they are seeing an increased risk of these metabolic diseases.
Eisenberg added that these findings suggest that infertility may supply a window into later health.
Eisenberg and colleagues gathered data on over 100,000 men from an insurance claims database between 2001 and 2009, with an average age of 33, for the study.
The researchers concentrated on the general health conditions of three groups of men: men diagnosed with infertility, men who had had a vasectomy and men who didn’t receive an infertility diagnosis, who were assumed to be fertile.
The researchers discovered that infertile men had about 30% higher chances of diabetes and a 48% higher rate of heart disease, even after taking smoking and obesity into account. The researchers said that the infertile men also had higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse.
Furthermore, those with the most drastic form of infertility had the greatest risk of alcohol abuse and kidney disease, according to Eisenberg.
The study does not identify a direct cause-and-effect link between chronic diseases and infertility, however.
However, the researchers guessed that environmental and/or hormonal factors may be involved.
Reduced levels of testosterone in infertile men may be connected to higher rates of heart disease and death, researchers suggested.
In addition, exposure to harmful environmental influences during development as a fetus might result in both general health and reproductive problems later in life, stated Eisenberg. Possibly, some of the same exposures that are associated with heart disease later in life also reduce sperm count, Eisenberg added.
Therefore, when a couple presents for infertility, there could be potential to make a positive impact on a male’s health through an examination of his fertility, Eisenberg stated.
Director of in vitro fertilization at the Center for Human Reproduction at North Shore-LIJ Health System in New York, Dr Christine Mullin, stated that it does seem that men faced with infertility also face the possibility for other health issues.
Mullin, who wasn’t involved in the study, stated that question is what comes first, the diabetes, heart disease or infertility?
Several men are seeing an infertility specialist in their adult lives as their first doctor. It is vital that these doctors understand that the semen analysis is not just a screening method to diagnose male fertility but also as a way to reveal other health-related problems.