How thyroid hormones impact male fertility

There are many reasons for male infertility such as hormonal imbalances, physical, psychological or behavioral problems. Thyroid hormones, previously thought not to affect male fertility, are now being recognized as having an important role e.g. in sperm production4,5 The good news: Correction of these disorders may restore a man’s fertility.

The overactive thyroid

If your thyroid gland produces and releases excess thyroid hormones into the bloodstream you have hyperthyroidism. Men can develop hyper¬thyroidism for a number of reasons, including Graves’ disease, overmedication with thyroid hormones for treatment of hypothyroidism, too much iodine in the diet, thyroid nodules, or an inflamed thyroid gland (known as thyroiditis). By speeding up your body’s metabolism, hyperthyroidism may result in many different symptoms; some of them are often mistaken for simple nervousness or stress.6

Key symptoms of hyperthyroidism6

  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Fast heart rate
  • Weight loss
  • Increased sensitivity to heat
  • Muscle weekness
  • Increased sweating
  • Trembling hands
  • Hair loss

If you are having fertility problems and at the same time some of the symptoms6 – it is unlikely you would develop all of them – you should bring up thyroid disease with your doctor, especially if you have a family history of thyroid disease.

The underactive thyroid

If your thyroid gland produces not enough thyroid hormones, you have thyroid deficiency, medically known as hypothyroidism. The most common causes of hypothyroidism are iodine deficiency and, where iodine deficiency is uncommon, Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disease that progressively destroys your thyroid gland.7 Thyroid deficiency slows down your metabolism Poor thyroid function5 is often associated with reduced libido and erectile dysfunction; furthermore it has an adverse effect on the form and structure of sperm – all of which can give rise to infertility.

Key symptoms of hypothyroidism7

  • Fatigue
  • Mental fogginess
  • Poor concentration and memory
  • Depression
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Brittle nails
  • Joint or muscle pain

If you are having fertility problems and at the same time some of the symptoms you should see your doctor and tell him/her about your symptoms.

References

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  • 7- The American Thyroid Association (2012) Hypothyroidism Brochure. http://www.thyroid.org/whatis-hypothyroidism Accessed October 2012.
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  • Accessed October 2012.
  • 12- Grassi G, Balsamo A, Ansaldi C et al. Thyroid autoimmunity and infertility. Gynecol Endocrinol 2001; 15: 389–396.
  • 13- Beyond Infertility. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES. National Institutes of Health; Eunice Kennedy
  • Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development 2008 http://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/upload/PCOS_booklet.pdf.
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  • 14- De Groot L, Abalovich M, Alexander EK, Amino N, Barbour L et al. Management of Thyroid Dysfunction during Pregnancy and Postpartum: An Endocrine Society

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