MFS Fertility Blog

3 Effects Diabetes Has On Male Fertility

Posted on May 15, 2013 in Sexual Health, Male Infertility

The prevalence of diabetes is increasing, and approximately 200,000 new cases of Type 2 diabetes are diagnosed each year in the United States. Besides affecting overall health, diabetes and its complications can also adversely affect male fertility, and may be the cause of unexplained infertility in men.

Sexual Dysfunction & Diabetes
Approximately 70% of diabetic men experience some form of sexual dysfunction at some point in time. Elevated blood sugar levels can cause damage to blood vessels and nerves. This can lead to retrograde ejaculation, which is associated with flow of semen into the bladder rather than out through the urethra. Your sperm therefore never reaches the female reproductive tract, and fertilization does not occur. Likewise, erectile dysfunction (ED), which is an inability to develop or sustain an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse, can be caused by diabetes itself or by taking certain medications to treat the disease. Both ED and retrograde ejaculation are amenable to treatment.

Sperm Damage
Another concern is recent evidence suggesting that elevated blood sugar can also damage sperm DNA. This DNA damage can impact the sperm's ability to fertilize the egg both naturally and through in vitro fertilization. Furthermore, damaged sperm DNA has been associated with decreases in embryo quality and implantation, and increases risk of miscarriage.

If you have unexplained infertility, make sure to inform your doctor of your diabetes status. The standard semen analysis does not include an evaluation of sperm DNA, particularly the fragmented nuclear DNA that is increased in diabetic males. While all other parameters of your sperm test may be normal, these overlooked DNA abnormalities could be the underlying cause of your difficulties in conceiving.

Indirect Impacts on Male Fertility
Several symptoms of diabetes, which don't directly impact the male reproductive system, can impede fertility. Cells require glucose for energy. In diabetes, the glucose in the bloodstream is unavailable for use by your cells. The result is fatigue, muscle weakness, loss of libido, and obesity – all of which can contribute to difficulties in reproduction. Feelings of fatigue can make you less likely to initiate or respond to sexual activity. Likewise, a loss of libido, or general lack of interest in sexual activity, can result from a lack of glucose to a certain region of the brain. Emotional and psychological issues related to obesity can also lead to an avoidance of intimacy. 

Learn about treatment options for males with diabetes

  • Pacific Coast Reproductive Society logo
  • American Urological Association logo
  • Fellow American College of Surgeons logo
  • The American Society for Reproductive Medicine logo
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