Men, Beware. Tight Clothing, Saunas And Motorbikes May Leave You Shooting Blanks

Blank, Blank Shot. PHOTO| COURTESY
It is an embarrassing topic. One which is discussed in hushed tones behind doors. Male infertility is rising and scientists cannot put a finger on it but some factors have been identified as precursors to the agony that now plagues the young and old, alike.

The silence is understandable as the African man holds his sexuality and virility dear. Once he starts having issues, he can only confide to a fellow man, a doctor.

Young men flock to fertility clinics and the diagnosis is often reduced sperm count, which is touted as the main cause of infertility.

“They talk about the pressure to be men, and performance anxiety ... some either change partners seeking more understanding or they opt to suffer in silence,” said a doctor.

In many cases, reduced sperm count arises from undescended testicles that were not corrected after birth. Unfortunately, this is a problem that can only be fixed before the boy is two years old.

Another cause of low sperm count is a varicocele, which an abnormal enlargement of the pampiniform venous plexus in the testicles. The condition can be corrected by simple surgery.
Aside from low sperm count, medics are also worried about the shape and agility of the sperms.

Nearly 90 per cent of the millions of sperms a man has are malformed, with more than one head or tail or without a head or tail. The properly formed sperm may be pathetic swimmers too.

After intercourse, a sperm begins its own race. Due to slow, weak or misshapen sperm, they cannot fertilise an ovum to make a woman pregnant. Many men do not realize the problem because there is no physical pain involved.

The World Health Organisation described current knowledge of male infertility as “very low”, a relative ignorance that has since been acknowledged by the UK Medical Research Council, which has issued a call for scientists to put forward projects in this kind of research for funding.

Doctors are worried because young men are now also affected.

With age, sperm counts decline and the sperms also begin to lose their strength to swim in a straight line to fertilise eggs. There is also a steady increase in sperm DNA fragmentation as men grow older, raising the possibility of fathering children with abnormalities.

Geneticists have been aware that the risk of certain rare birth defects increases with the father’s age.

A new report reveals that sperm counts among men in Western countries, including men in North America, Australia, New Zealand and Europe, have dropped substantially over the years.
According to study authors, in less than 40 years, collective sperm count among this group of men has declined more than 50%. Sperm count is currently considered the best measure of male fertility.

The new study, published Tuesday in the journal Human Reproduction Update, not only shows that men’s sperm counts are dropping, but that the continued decline does not appear to be levelling off.

The environment and lifestyle factors such as prenatal chemical exposure, adult pesticide exposure, smoking, stress and obesity have been implicated.

“One possible explanation is that men residing in Western countries over the last decades were exposed to new manmade chemicals during their life course, and there is more and more evidence that these chemicals hurt their reproductive function,” he says. “We don't know for sure why this is happening, but our findings should drive a massive scientific effort to identify the causes and modes of prevention.”

Air that is too hot for spermatogenesis (sperm creation) is also problematic because sperms are manufactured in cool temperatures.Men who ride motorbikes have shown a pattern of fewer sperms same as those working in factories with a furnace.

“Men soaking themselves in these hot liquids with chemicals habitually like the sauna, develop these problems in the long run”

Doctors also caution men against wearing tight jeans or underwear.

Men who carry mobile phones in their trouser pockets may also be at risk of damaging their sperm count, according to research by Hungarian scientists.

Additional reporting by Daily Nation and Time Magazine

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