Sperm, it appears, may hold a mirror up to a man’s overall health. A new study in the journal Fertility and Sterility reports that defects in sperm within semen may be linked to a variety of health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and skin and glandular disorders. The defects probably don’t cause these problems, the researchers say. It’s more likely that semen quality reflects overall health.
“It may be that infertility is a marker for sickness overall,” says lead researcher Michael Eisenberg, M.D., an assistant professor of urology and director of male reproductive medicine and surgery at the Stanford School of Medicine in Palo Alto, Calif. “There are a lot of factors involving a man’s overall health that turn out to impair sperm production.”
In the study, Eisenberg’s team compared the health of more than 9,000 men who had semen defects with men who didn’t. The researchers found that 44 percent of men with semen defects also had other health problems. These included high blood pressure, and heart and blood vessel disease. In addition, as the number of other health conditions—such as skin disease or glandular problems—increased, so too did the likelihood of semen issues, according to the study.