Just Like A Pill – Medications & Male Fertility
What we put into our bodies affects what we get out of it. Previously we’ve spoken about nutrition, and how certain things we eat or drink can impact fertility. For example, increasing the amount of carbohydrates, fiber, folic acid (vitamin B), fruits, vegetables and antioxidants in our diet correlates with better-quality semen. On the other hand, drinking alcohol may decrease sperm count, volume and morphology. Here we’re going to address something else we ingest; certain medications, and how they may impair male fertility.
Finasteride. In the states, common brand names are Propecia and Proscar. Finasteride is a 5-Alpha Reductase Inhibitor (blocks the 5-Alpha Reductase enzyme), used to treat hair loss and benign prostate hyperplasia, or BPH, which is caused by an enlarged prostate. Finasteride is a prescription medication that increases testosterone levels in the body, which will then increase head hair and reduce size of the prostate. This medication is often consumed by men of reproductive age. Studies have shown that taking finasteride has a negative impact on fertility, yet this effect is reversible once the drug has been discontinued. Patients with severe oligospermia (low sperm concentration) or azoospermia (lack of sperm in semen) who stopped taking finasteride later had an increase in both sperm volume and concentration.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). There are many brand names for SSRIs, including Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft. SSRIs are commonly used to treat depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and more. They treat chemical imbalances in the brain by increasing levels of serotonin. SSRIs are shown to be extremely effective in treating these disorders, with minimal side effects. Unfortunately, they also have been demonstrated to have a negative impact on male fertility. More research is needed, yet studies have exhibited a decrease in sperm count, motility (movement) and morphology (shape) when the subject was taking SSRIs.
Ketoconazole. This medication is used to treat fungal infection. When taken as a cream, ointment, or powder, it may be applied directly to the skin, and in this case doesn’t show any harmful effect on male fertility. When taken as a pill, ketoconazole weakens sperm production.
Anti-Epileptic Drugs (AEDs). These include carbamazepine, oxcarbazepine, and valproate. AED’s are used to treat patients with the neurological disorder epilepsy. Epilepsy itself and AEDs have hormonal effects and reduction in testosterone. This medication is also associated with low sperm count, volume and motility.
Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE)-Inhibitors and Beta Blockers. These medications, which may be prescribed together, are used to treat hypertension and high blood pressure. They obstruct particular hormones, which in turn decreases activity in the heart. ACE-Inhibitors and Beta Blockers are related to poorer semen volume, concentration and motility.
Chemotherapy. American Cancer Society explains that chemotherapy “kills cells in the body that are dividing quickly, and since sperm cells divide quickly they are an easy target for damage”. Sperm production slows down, or may stop completely, after chemotherapy. To read more please refer to our information page here.
Anabolic Steroids. Anabolic Steroids are synthetic substances that are similar to the testosterone hormone. They may be prescribed to treat medical complications that cause the body to produce low quantities of testosterone. Long-term or excessive use of anabolic steroids will result in temporary or possibly chronic loss of fertility. You can find out more on our information page here.
The field of fertility is still constantly being explored, and new discoveries are made often. This includes medications and how they impact sperm and male fertility. We’ll continue to update as new information comes out and as always, we recommend consulting with your doctor.
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