Chlamydia is the most common STI associated with male infertility, affecting millions of people every year. Symptoms of an active infection may include a burning sensation during urination, a light-colored discharge from the penis, and tender/swollen testicles. It is important to note that up to half of infections do not produce noticeable symptoms. An uncontrolled infection by Chlamydia can cause permanent scarring and blockages in the plumbing associated with sperm production. Chlamydia is a bacterial infection and is treatable with antibiotics.
“The clap” or Gonorrhea is an STI commonly associated with male infertility. Symptoms of an active infection may include a burning sensation during urination and a darker-colored discharge from the penis. As with Chlamydia, it is possible to have a Gonorrhea infection without noticeable symptoms, and it may cause permanent scarring and blockages in the sperm production plumbing. Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection and is treatable with antibiotics.
Mycoplasma are extremely tiny, sexually transmitted bacteria that can latch onto cells. When sperm cells are infected with Mycoplasma, their motility may be reduced. Infection with Mycoplasma typically does not produce noticeable outward symptoms, but may be diagnosed by culturing the semen. It can be treated with antibiotics.
Although best known as a devastating bacterial lung infection, Tuberculosis has also been known to attack the reproductive system and cause permanent tubal blockages in both men and women. Tuberculosis is very rare in developed countries, but is a significant cause of infertility in developing countries, such as India.
Mumps is caused by an “airborne” virus, and is best known for causing enormously swollen lymph nodes, especially under the jawline. Men infected with mumps after puberty can suffer from painfully swollen testicles, and can have permanently impaired sperm production. Mumps is currently rare in developed countries, but a significant health threat in developing countries.
Non-sexually transmitted urinary tract infections are relatively rare in men, but can occur. In these cases, most of the damage to fertility is caused by the entrance of white blood cells or “leukocytes” to fight the bacteria. The leukocytes release toxic substances to kill the bacteria that can cause collateral damage to sperm. These types of infections are often discovered by the presence of large numbers of leukocytes during a semen analysis. If the infection is treated with antibiotics, full fertility can typically be restored.
A variety of treatments are available to men whose fertility has been adversely affected by infections. If an active infection is ongoing it should be diagnosed and treated with the help of a physician. After recovering from an active infection, most men will regain full fertility within a few months. If scarring of the plumbing that carries sperm cells from a past infection has occurred, a urologist can often surgically correct the blockages. In severe cases, sperm can be surgically extracted from the testicles and used for ICSI and IVF. For STIs, prevention is obviously the best, and lest expensive treatment. Be safe.