Low Sperm Count Is Key ‘Sickness’ Marker Says New Study

According to a new study, poor sperm quality is a key indicator of other health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and skin and glandular disorders.

The low or poor sperm quality probably isn’t actually the cause of these health problems, but rather, a significant effect. Researchers say that semen (sperm) quality in men is a key component of overall health. Lead researcher of the new study, Dr. Michael Eisenberg, is an assistant professor of urology and director of male reproductive medicine and surgery at the Stanford School of Medicine in Palo Alto, California.

“It may be that infertility is a marker for sickness overall. There are a lot of factors that involve a man’s overall health that turn out to impair sperm production.”

Semen is the fluid that is released when a man ejaculates. Inside semen is sperm. Sperm defects, such as too few sperm or sperm with decreased motility (meaning they don’t move well), can affect the quality of semen. However, the study found that addressing the core “sickness” that is causing the sperm issue can have a positive effect on semen quality in some cases. In other cases, drugs that are used to treat the core “sickness” – such as high blood pressure – may be the cause of the poor sperm quality in the first place.

“Many things we didn’t know about or think about may impact a man’s fertility. It might be treatment for high blood pressure that is causing sperm problems.”

Dr. Eisenberg also said that genetics can play a part.

“About 10 percent of the genes in a man’s body are involved in sperm production, so it is possible that some of these genes may have overlapping effects on other functions.”

In the study that was published today in the journal Fertility and Sterility, Eisenberg’s group compared the health of men who had semen defects with men who didn’t. The results found that 44 percent of men with semen defects had other health problems, including high blood pressure, and heart and blood vessel disease. Those men with sperm defects also had a higher instance of other health conditions like skin disease and glandular problems.

The study analyzed medical records of over 9,000 men seen between 1994 and 2011 for infertility issues. The men were mostly between 30 and 50 years old. Each of these men’s sperm was assessed for semen amount, sperm count and sperm motility. Researchers said that in about half the men, a fertility problem was due to abnormal semen.

“This is another piece of evidence of how important not only fertility is, but overall health. There is a lot of overlap. Regardless of what your goals are, whether it’s to live forever or have a baby, it’s important to take care of yourself.”

Researchers believe that this new sperm study can help fertility specialists understand the complex relationship between semen production and medical problems.

[Image via CBS]