A new study finds male infertility as a result of poor semen quality may be associated with specific medical conditions, including hypertension, peripheral artery disease, cerebrovascular disease, non-ischemic heart disease and skin and endocrine disorders.
The research team - led by Dr. Michael Eisenberg of the Stanford University School of Medicine in California - publish their findings in the journal Fertility and Sterility.
Earlier this year, Medical News Today reported on another study led by Dr. Eisenberg suggesting that male infertility may increase mortality risk. But this latest study, Dr. Eisenberg says, is the first to uncover a link between poor semen quality and certain circulatory system disorders.
"To the best of my knowledge, there's never been a study showing this association before," he adds. "There are a lot of men who have hypertension, so understanding that correlation is of huge interest to us."
To reach their findings, the team analyzed data of 9,837 infertile men with an average age of 38 years. Between 1994 and 2011, all men provided semen samples from which researchers assessed semen motility, volume and concentration.
Abnormal semen quality was found to be the cause of infertility in around 50% of men. As such, the researchers were able to compare the occurrence of other health problems among men who had semen abnormalities with those whose infertility was caused by other defects.
Dr. Eisenberg and colleagues found that as well as fertility problems, 44% of all men had other medical conditions. Interestingly, the team found that men whose infertility was caused by semen abnormalities were more likely to have hypertension, peripheral vascular and cerebrovascular diseases, non-ischemic heart disease, skin disorders or endocrine disorders.
What is more, the researchers found that the more semen abnormalities a man possessed, the higher his risk of having an additional medical condition.
Men's overall health should be assessed alongside infertility treatment
Although the reasons behind these findings are unclear, Dr. Eisenberg points out that around 15% of genes in the human genome are linked to reproduction, with the majority of these genes also playing a role in other systems of the body.
In addition, he notes that treatment for certain medical conditions may be responsible for semen abnormalities rather than the medical conditions themselves. This is a theory that the team plans to investigate further.
According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, the male partner is either the sole or contributing cause of infertility in around 40% of infertile couples.
Dr. Eisenberg says the team's findings show men's health is "strongly correlated" with semen quality, and given the high incidence of fertility, this should be considered during visits to fertility clinics.
"As we treat men's infertility, we should also assess their overall health. That visit to a fertility clinic represents a big opportunity to improve their treatment for other conditions, which we now suspect could actually help resolve the infertility they came in for in the first place."
Earlier this year, MNT found that stress may reduce semen quality, increasing the risk of infertility among men.