Chronic Health Diseases That Affect Male Fertility

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Male fertility is a biological occurrence that determines a male’s ability to make a woman pregnant. The process of conceiving is extremely intricate and can be affected by various factors making it difficult to conceive such as male fertility-related problems.


What is Good Fertility?

Good fertility in males is characterised by several factors beyond the sperm count and successful conception with a partner. While a semen sample containing 15 million or more sperm per milliliter is considered favourable, other parameters such as sperm motility, morphology (shape), and overall sperm health also play crucial roles. Sperm motility refers to the ability of sperm to move effectively, facilitating their journey towards the egg for fertilisation. Similarly, sperm morphology assesses the shape and structure of sperm, ensuring they are capable of penetrating and fertilising the egg.


What Contributes to Male Fertility?

Various factors can contribute to male fertility to ensure optimal fertility and great sperm health. Some factors that can contribute to a male’s reproductive health include a healthy lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle typically includes staying active by training for at least 30 minutes a day for 3-5 days per week. As a male exercise, his natural secretion of testosterone increases, thus increasing the production of sperm and optimising his fertility.

A healthy lifestyle also includes maintaining a healthy diet that is filled with foods rich in nutrients and antioxidants such as fruits and vegetables. Whole grains and healthy fats can also be included. Abstaining from smoking and consuming alcohol in moderate amounts can contribute to the maintenance of a male’s reproductive health.


Chronic Conditions that Affect Fertility

Delve into the impact of chronic conditions on male fertility, shedding light on how diseases like diabetes, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cryptorchidism can affect reproductive health.



As a healthy lifestyle can contribute to a male’s reproductive health, the opposite thereof is that an unhealthy lifestyle can lead to chronic diseases such as diabetes that can negatively affect a male’s fertility

Studies have shown that glucose metabolism is an important process during spermatogenesis and plays a role in maintaining cell activity and motility and functioning of sperm. In the case where diabetic patients can not metabolise their glucose, the high glucose levels can cause damage to reproductive organs and disrupt the process of spermatogenesis leading to a lower quality of sperm.

Studies have found that diabetes can have detrimental effects on sperm motility, the DNA of sperm, sperm quality and the ingredients used to make up the seminal fluid. As diabetes can disrupt the spermatogenesis process, it can affect the germ line and possibly cause diabetes in the offspring individuals.



Cancer is a disease that occurs when abnormal cells differentiate at an abnormal speed. Depending where these cells are growing, will determine the type of cancer. The most common cancers among men are prostate cancer, lung cancer and colorectal cancer.

It is not so sore the cancer that has detrimental effects on a male’s reproductive health, but the treatment thereof. Cancer is usually treated with chemotherapy drugs or via radiotherapy. Chemotherapy is where cytotoxic drugs are used to induce apoptosis in abnormal cells that grow extremely fast. Not only do patients get very sick when receiving chemo, but it also affects their fertility. Most of the time male fertility will be affected by chemo, causing azoospermia, where there is no sperm present in the semen. When this happens a male is infertile.

Radiotherapy is where electromagnetic waves are used to target abnormal growing cells and induce apoptosis thereof. Testicular tissue is sensitive to radiotherapy causing this treatment to affect testosterone levels leading to a decrease in sperm production.

Patients diagnosed with cancer who still want to conceive in the future have the option to preserve their fertility by freezing their sperm via the cryopreservation process. This process requires a semen sample where the sperm are stored at extremely low temperatures. This keeps the sperm viable. At a later stage, these sperm can be implanted in a woman’s uterus or can be used to inseminate an ovum via IVF. This gives infertile cancer patients the option to still have children.


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

One of the most common COPDs is emphysema. Emphysema is a disease that is usually caused by excessive smoking. This disease presents with breathlessness, cough with phlegm production, fatigue, chest infections and cyanosis. Emphysema makes a patient more susceptible to severe lung infections such as pneumonia.

Excessive smoking can cause damage to the blood vessels which can have a negative impact on a male’s reproductive health causing erectile dysfunction and affecting sperm parameters. During an erection, vasodilation takes place and blood rushes to the penis. In a patient who smokes excessively, the nicotine causes vasoconstriction inhibiting the ability to get or maintain an erection. Studies have found that smoking is also associated with a lower sperm count. The good news is that the damage to sperm quality is reversible if a male abstains from smoking.



Cryptorchidism happens when a boy is born with one or two testicles absent from the scrotum. Usually spontaneous descend of the testicles takes place, if it doesn’t, surgical intervention will be needed. Studies have found that men who have cryptorchidism but have had it surgically corrected, can still experience a certain amount of infertility due to azoospermia, the absence of sperm in the semen. At least there are treatment options available that one can discuss with their doctor on how to improve a male’s fertility.

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