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Why Men Shouldn't be Overlooked in Infertility Issues



DNA Fragmentation


Sperm DNA fragmentation is the term used to describe the condition of sperm having genetic abnormalities that hinder the sperm's ability from having successful fertilization and normal embryo development. This further complicates into cases of male subfertility which may lead to Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) failures and miscarriages.


How did Sperm DNA Fragmentation Happen?


How did sperm DNA fragmentation happen? Sperm DNA fragmentation itself is still a rare medical condition and hardly comes up when discussing male infertility unless your doctor suspected a genetic anomaly from your infertility diagnosis.

In order to understand DNA fragmentation, let's have a quick lesson about DNA. A genome is defined as an organism’s complete set of genetic instructions. The genetic instructions in our genome are made up of DNA which contains unique chemical codes that guide our growth, development and health. DNA has the appearance of a twisted structure called the double helix.

DNA fragmentation is the condition when there are breaks or damages in the structure of the DNA which lead to cell damage. In male infertility, these damaged cells can be packed together in the DNA carried by the sperm’s head. This causes incomplete instructions to be passed on during the fertilization stage which may lead to failure in fertilization, miscarriages or health issues for your unborn child.


What Causes DNA Fragmentation?


For men, the major cause of sperm DNA fragmentation is oxidative stress. There are several known medical conditions that are associated with oxidative stress, making them the possible cause of sperm DNA fragmentations.


Leukocytospermia, also known as Pyospermia is a condition in which an unusually high number of white blood cells are found in the semen. The white blood cells can weaken the sperm and causes damage to the genetic material by the release of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Leukocytospermia can be diagnosed through a urine test or semen culture test (test to detect the presence of microorganisms in the semen) and can be treated by eliminating the white blood cells through antibiotics medications.



Diabetes is a condition when the blood sugar level becomes too high and not properly controlled in the body. This condition influences male fertility at the molecular level. Diabetic men are found to have a higher count of damaged sperm DNA compared to men without diabetes. Diabetes is also linked to the decreased ability to naturally repair the sperm DNA thus resulting in low-quality sperms and genetic problems. Treatment for DNA fragmentation by diabetes will be the same as a diabetes treatment. The treatment will depend on which stage of diabetes you are currently in.



The testes where sperm are produced are sensitive to heat stress, hypoxia (low oxygen level) and inflammation due to oxidative stress. Varicocele is the inflammation that causes enlargement of the vein in the scrotum. High levels of ROS which are produced by oxidative stress are able to damage the sperm DNA and impact the quality of sperm produced. Varicocele can be treated by surgery to either block or unblock the enlarged vein(s).


How to Prevent DNA Fragmentation?


DNA fragmentation can be prevented to some extent by eliminating or controlling the risk factors that contribute to the condition. Below are some tips you can implement straight away in producing good quality and healthy sperm


Remember how testis is sensitive to heat? You can avoid this by not engaging in activities that can increase the temperature around your scrotum. This includes the sauna and hot tubs.

Medication and drugs

Some medications could directly or indirectly affect your hormonal balance thus interfering with your reproductive systems. If the medications are prescribed, do discuss with your doctor for alternatives available to aid with conception. Otherwise, lay off illicit drugs such as marijuana which not only lower your immune system but also hamper the production of quality sperm.


Being overweight comes with the danger of diabetes, hypertension and other illnesses. Diabetes for example is known to damage the sperm DNA. The best way to overcome this issue is by leading a healthy lifestyle of balanced diets and regular exercise. Consult your doctor to learn about your ideal BMI and how to achieve it.

Mobile phones and electronic gadgets

For decades this topic has been a hot debate and is yet to find conclusive evidence on how much usage of electronic gadgets can affect your sperm quality. The radiation from the mobile phone is likely to affect men who are already on the “borderline” of infertility. Nevertheless, mobile phones and other gadgets are simply part of our life these days, some may even treat them as extra limbs. There is no harm in taking extra precautions for the sake of your fertility wellbeing. You can either decrease usage time or make sure to move it away from your scrotum area.

Things Are Difficult To Change


Unfortunately, there are some risk factors that are difficult to change such as advancing age and environmental factors.

Men who are over the age of 40 have been found to be more likely to produce sperm with DNA fragmentation. The advancing age decreases the natural ability to repair their own damaged DNA.

Environmental factors are mostly due to men’s occupations. Some men are not even aware of prolonged/constant exposure to harmful chemicals or radiation that causes DNA fragmentations in their workplace. These environmental factors may not be corrected immediately (or at all) just by removing oneself from said environment.


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