MADLEN DAVIES | MAILONLINE
A man's overall health is linked to the quality of his sperm, a new study has found.Problems with infertility in men signal other health problems like high blood pressure and hormone disorders, doctors believe.
They found 15 per cent of couples have fertility problems, half of which are down to poor sperm quality.For the first time, a study has linked poor semen quality to a higher chance of having various health conditions, such as high blood pressure, and more generally to skin and hormonal disorders.
Men as young as 30 can be affected, and it is known infertile men die earlier and are more likely to die from heart problems, doctors warned.
Professor Michael Eisenberg, of Stanford University School of Medicine, said: 'About 15 per cent of all couples have fertility issues, and in half of those cases the male partner has semen deficiencies.
'We should be paying more attention to these millions of men. Infertility is a warning - problems with reproduction may mean problems with overall health.
'But here, we're already spotting signs of trouble in young men in their 30s.'
The findings suggested men with fertility problems should be given thorough physical examinations to detect early signs of health problems.
The new study examined the medical records of 9,387 men aged between 30 and 50 between 1994 and 2011 to determine the cause of their infertility.
In about half of all the male infertility cases, the problem was abnormal semen while in the rest, the fault lay elsewhere.
Almost half (44 per cent) of all the men, whose average age was 38, had some additional health problem besides the fertility problem that brought them to the clinic.
The main problems were specific diseases of the circulatory system, notably high blood pressure, vascular disease and heart disease.
Professor Eisenberg said: 'To the best of my knowledge, there's never been a study showing this association before.
'There are a lot of men who have high blood pressure, so understanding that correlation is of huge interest to us.'
The results also showed as the number of different kinds of defects in a man's semen rose, so did his likelihood of having a skin disease or hormone disorder.
It is not known why there is a connection between semen defects and seemingly unrelated disorders, such as a cardiovascular or hormonal disease, come about.
However Professor Eisenberg said some 15 per cent of all genes in the human genome are connected fairly directly to reproduction, and most of these genes also have diverse functions in other bodily systems.
He said: 'A man's health is strongly correlated with his semen quality. Given the high incidence of infertility, we need to take a broader view.
'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.'
The study was published online in the journal Fertility and Sterility.