A new study offers some important news to men struggling to have children: Infertile men appear more likely than their fertile counterparts to develop other ailments, including diabetes, and heart disease, and also face a higher risk of alcohol or drug abuse.
"I think it's important to know that sperm counts and fertility may tell a little more than just about reproductive potential," Stanford urologist Michael Eisenberg, MD, lead author of the study, said.
The researchers examined records filed between 2001 and 2009 of more than 115,000 reproductive-aged men from an anonymized insurance claims database. They analyzed the men's medical visits before and after fertility testing to determine what health complications they developed in the years after fertility evaluations. The researchers compared general health conditions of men with infertility diagnoses to men without the diagnoses and to vasectomized men.
Of the three groups, infertile men had higher rates of most diseases the researchers were screening for in the study, including heart disease and diabetes, even when results were adjusted for obesity, smoking and health-care utilization. In addition, men with the most severe form of male infertility had the highest risk of renal disease and alcohol abuse.
Eisenberg said he hopes the findings have a silver lining: "For members of this group of reproductive-age men, they usually don't go to the doctor unless there is a big problem. A lot of time fertility is one of the first things that brings them to the doctor, so in some ways that might be an opportunity to engage the health-care system and see what's going on with their general health."
Previously: Sleep apnea linked with male infertility, Male infertility can be warning of hypertension, Stanford study finds and Ask Stanford Med: Expert in reproductive medicine responds to questions on infertility