highlights that increased awareness and more research into the causes behind this association are urgently needed.
Inflammatory arthritis (IA) is a type of joint inflammation caused by an overactive immune system. It includes
‘Inflammatory arthritis around the 30s can cause fertility problems in men. Psychosocial factors and arthritis medications could be the reasons behind lower fertility rates and higher rates of involuntary childlessness among men.’
Studies have shown that this inflammatory condition is associated with sexual dysfunction and reproductive health issues like male Infertility, erectile dysfunction, insufficient testosterone, and sperm production. The impact of inflammatory arthritis (IA) on male fertility remains unexplored.
What Does This Study Add?
To explore the link between inflammatory arthritis (IA) and male infertility, the team conducted a multicentre cross-sectional study in eight Dutch hospitals across the Netherlands. Based on the age at which IA is diagnosed, the participants they divided participants into three study groups:
- Group-1: Diagnosed with IA before the peak of reproductive age (≤30 years)
- Group-2: Diagnosed with IA during the peak of reproductive age (between 31 and 40 years)
- Group-3: Diagnosed with IA after the peak reproductive age (≥41 years)
A self-reported questionnaire that is designed based on the ‘fertility experiences questionnaire (FEQ)’ was answered by all the participants enrolled in this study. It contained four sections: general demographic information, medical history, family planning, and fertility outcomes.
After adjusting for potentially influential factors, including current age, educational attainment, history of cardiovascular disease, a partner’s infertility, researchers found that
- Men diagnosed with IA before the age of 30 had significantly fewer children than men in the two other age groups
- About 12% of men from group-1 had involuntary childlessness, whereas 10% and 4% of men from group-2 and group-3 had the same condition
What Could be the Reason Behind this?
The team suggests two possible causes behind this. The first one is arthritis drugs that cause side effects like hypogonadism (sex glands produce little or no sex hormones) and poor sperm quality. It has been estimated 1 in 10 who take these drugs are associated with impaired fertility.
They also opine that several psychosocial factors associated with the diagnosis of this condition might also impact the fertility rate of men.
“Due to problems or concerns associated with [the diagnosis] and its treatment and based on medical advice (or the lack of it), men with [inflammatory arthritis] and their partners decided to become voluntarily childless or to delay their plans to become parents. These psychosocial factors were of special importance for men diagnosed before the peak of reproductive age,” highlights the team.
- Perez-Garcia LF, Röder E, Goekoop RJ, Hazes JMW, Kok MR, Smeele HTW, Tchetverikov I, van der Helm-van Mil AHM, van der Kaap JH, Kok P, Krijthe BP, Dolhain RJEM. Impaired fertility in men diagnosed with inflammatory arthritis: results of a large multicentre study (iFAME-Fertility). Ann Rheum Dis. 2021 Aug 9:annrheumdis-2021-220709. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2021-220709. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34373257.
- Inflammatory Arthritis – (https://www.hss.edu/condition-list_inflammatory-arthritis.asp)