A new study by researchers from Stanford University revealed that infertility and poor semen quality could be signs of other more serious health problems that are not related to fertility.
The study, which involved over 9,000 male subjects that were seeking help for infertility problems over the period of 1994 to 2011, discovered that men with low sperm cell counts, bad sperm motility and other impairments in semen production were more likely to have other health problems. These health problems include heart and vascular issues such as high blood pressure, skin problems and endocrine disorders.
Published in the Fertility and Sterility journal, the study supports previous studies that discovered the connection between the poor production of semen and an increased cancer risk and early death for men.
"We found a lot of correlations between semen production and medical conditions that we never knew about," said Michael Eisenberg, the study's lead author and Stanford's male reproductive medicine and surgery director.
Eisenberg proposed that, since fertility seems to be a marker for general health, all men should have their semen production checked, regardless of whether or not they are having infertility problems or are not yet trying to conceive with their partner.
The research shows remarkable details on the connections between fertility and male health. However, researchers have not yet been able to pinpoint why there is such a connection.
It is also not yet determined if the poor production of semen is the cause of underlying health problems or if the opposite is true, that untreated health problems or the treatments themselves lead to infertility.
Eisenberg also adds the possibility that health problems and infertility are both caused by a genetic malfunction. Up to 15 percent of the genetic makeup of a man is connected with reproduction, and it is possible that these genes are also a part of other significant roles with the body. If such genes malfunction, both fertility and general health could end up being affected.
Urologist James Smith, UCSF male reproductive health director, believes that the research by Eisenberg opens up avenues for further research in male infertility.
Experts in fertility problems said that further research based on the findings of the study could lead to more possibilities in treating infertility. For example, the treatment of hypertension could lead to an improvement in semen production.
It is also possible that certain medications for the treatment of high blood pressure could lead to infertility, in which case the offending drugs will likely not be prescribed for men that are still trying to grow their family.