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My partner is sick – Will that affect his sperm count?

Low sperm count is the leading cause of male infertility. A number of factors can result in low sperm count, some genetic, some behavioral, others environmental. Additionally, if your partner is sick, this can have a temporary effect on his sperm count. In most cases, things will revert to normal once he's feeling better - but some illnesses can permanently impact a man's fertility.


Which illnesses result in lower sperm count?

Any illness that causes a fever can have an effect on sperm count. If your partner has the flu, pneumonia or even a severe cold (which can bring on a fever), sperm production and quality can be negatively impacted. This situation will be reversed once he recovers, but since it takes about two and a half months for the male body to produce sperm, it can take about that long for sperm count to return to normal after an illness. If he’s otherwise healthy and just has a cold or a mild case of the flu, the effect on his sperm count might not be noticeable.

Men with cystic fibrosis, a progressive hereditary disease affecting the mucous glands, usually have a very low sperm count, due to abnormal development or blockage in the vas deferens (the testicular duct that carries sperm). Severe kidney disease can also have a detrimental effect on sperm count. If your partner is deficient in certain nutrients, such as selenium, zinc and folic acid or Vitamin C, this might impact sperm count; this is not a serious circumstance and can be rectified by his taking a daily multivitamin.

If a man is suffering from testicular cancer this often has a devastating impact on his fertility. Men with this form of cancer often choose to donate sperm before undergoing surgery or beginning drug therapy. Radiation and chemotherapy treatment for any kind of cancer can reduce sperm count and sperm production or even halt it entirely. Many chemotherapy drugs cause permanent infertility. High levels of radiation can damage sperm production for several years and in some cases, permanently.

Can medications help?

Certain medications can have an adverse effect on sperm count. These include antibiotics such as erythromycin, gentamicin and nitrofurantoin, sulfasalazine (taken for ulcerative colitis), cimetidine (for ulcers and acid reflux disease), colchicine (for gout), ketoconazole (an anti-fungal), spironolactone (an anti-hypertensive) and methotrexate (for arthritis, psoriasis and some forms of cancer). In many cases, the negative impact on sperm count stops once the medicine is no longer being taken. If you are trying to get pregnant and your partner is taking any of these drugs, consult with his health care provider – he should not just stop using the medication on his own.

Other factors to consider: Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use

In addition to illness, other lifestyle factors can have a negative impact on sperm count. Cigarette smoking, along with heavy marijuana use, can result in lower sperm count and lower sperm motility (movement). Some researchers also believe that smokers might produce genetically abnormal sperm. Alcohol and drug abuse can interfere with normal sperm development and sperm count, but if a man eliminates alcohol intake for several months, this may be reversible. Obesity can cause hormonal changes that might lower sperm count. Steroid use can also trigger hormonal imbalances and can lead to serious fertility problems. Stress is another factor that can produce hormonal changes and affect sperm count. Exposure to environmental toxins and chemicals or heavy metals like lead and arsenic, all of which can be found in the workplace, at home and elsewhere, are believed to potentially reduce sperm count.

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