Does diabetes affect sperm quality?

Diabetes is a disorder in which the amount of sugar in the blood is elevated. Its full name, diabetes mellitus, is often used rather than diabetes alone, to distinguish this disorder from diabetes insipidus.

Body sugar can either be simple, or complex. Complex sugars are broken down by the body into simple sugars, for example the common table sugar is made of two simpler sugars called glucose and fructose, while milk sugar is made of glucose and a simple sugar called galactose. Other foods like the carbohydrates in starches, such as bread, pasta, rice, and similar foods, are long chains of different simple sugar molecules. The body can only absorb simple sugar into the blood.

Once the body absorbs simple sugars, it usually converts them all into glucose, which is an important source of fuel for the body. Glucose is then transported through the bloodstream and taken up by cells for energy. The body can also make glucose from fats and proteins. Blood sugar therefore really refers to glucose.

Glucose levels are controlled by an enzyme called insulin. The main function of insulin is to regulate blood sugar and make sure it is not too high in the blood. High blood glucose can cause damage to the blood vessels, especially of the kidneys, heart, brain and eyes. Diabetes mellitus occurs when there is either a problem with the production of insulin by the body, insensitivity of the body to insulin and its functions, or both.

What are the symptoms of diabetes mellitus?

Diabetes affects both men and women. It can cause several symptoms in the body. They include: excessive urination, (both in the daytime and night time), excessive thirst, excessive hunger, weight loss, problems with sensation in the limbs which can predispose to other issues like poorly healing sores, sexual issues, digestive problems, and complications in some vital organs like the brain, heart, kidneys, and eyes. Excessively high blood sugar can also lead to death.

What are the effects of diabetes on the male sexual function and sperm quality?

The complications of diabetes also occur in the male sexual reproductive system. The high blood sugar can cause poor erection, difficulty sustaining an erection or weak erection, leading to poor sexual performance. These are as a result of nerve damage and poor blood supply to the structures in the penis. The nerve damage can also cause decreased sensitivity and lead to difficulty achieving ejaculation or retrograde ejaculation which is when some sperm refluxes into the bladder during ejaculation.

Sperm quality is determined by the volume of seminal fluid, quantity of sperm cells (sperm count), number of dead or disfigured cells (sperm cell quality), and its motility. Diabetes itself can alter spermatogenesis which is the process of sperm production, reducing the sperm count. Retrograde ejaculation can also reduce the sperm count, thereby reducing its quality. Also about 1 in 4 men with diabetes have low testosterone levels (hypogonadism). This can also lead to low sperm count, erectile dysfunction, and reduced sex drive. These problems can also reduce the sperm quality.

Also, according to research, Diabetic men have a dramatically higher percentage of producing defective sperm with nuclear and mitochondrial DNA fragmentation. An egg fertilized by such a sperm is less likely to become a healthy embryo, making spontaneous abortion of such an embryo more probable. Diabetes also reduces the quality of the ingredients of seminal plasma. Lastly, a consistent state of high blood sugar caused by poorly managed diabetes causes a progressive decrease in sperm motility and a higher rate of sperm shape alterations. All these combined implies that Diabetes causes a state of reduced fertility.

So if you have been diagnosed of diabetes, make sure to visit your doctor often, follow the instructions on dietary modification, and take your medications as prescribed by the doctor to reduce the complications of diabetes.

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