mumps and male fertility

So you’ve found out or remember having mumps as a teenager, is it a problem?

You may also have noticed this question in our free health questionnaire which prompted a recommendation to see a Urologist, why is this?

Mumps is a viral infection which is of concern in young teenage boys (post puberty) and in adult men.

With the development of the MMR immunisation we’ve seen the rate of mumps drop considerably however there was a significant peak of cases across the 80’s before the introduction of the vaccine in 1988.

The mumps virus most commonly causes swelling of the salivary glands in the neck giving rise to the common visual symptom of a swollen jawline or neck. Other symptoms may include:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of appetite

As a virus that affects the glands of the body it can lead to swelling in other glands most noticeably and of concern the testicles (the male sex gland).  

Swelling of the testicles (known as Orchitis) can be incredibly painful for men and can cause permanent damage to the structures of the testicles.

Symptoms could include the above along with:

  • Enlarged testicle or testicles
  • mild to severe pain in the testicles
  • Discharge from the penis
  • Discomfort sitting

How does mumps affect fertility?

There are 2 areas of concern as a result of Orchitis.

The first is that the inflammation within the testicle causes damage to the seminiferous tubules. The seminiferous tubules are where sperm production begins so you can understand that damage in this area could seriously impair sperm production leading to low count, poor motility and poor morphology.

The second area of concern is the affect inflammation has on the blood / sperm barrier and the overall immune system. Blood and sperm should never mix as it triggers the immune system to produce anti sperm antibodies thinking that sperm are foreign invaders to the body.

The most common issue for men with anti-sperm antibodies is high levels of agglutination (clumping of the sperm). This clumping reduces motility and the ability of sperm to travel to the egg.

Treatment of anti-sperm antibodies is fairly ineffective meaning most couples will have to consider assisted treatment techniques such as IVF or ICSI.

I had mumps, what should I do?

As our health questionnaire suggests we would always recommend a consultation with a urologist / andrologist if you have any concerns. It may be that your semen analysis is below the normal range or equally it may be normal. None the less if you remember having mumps as a teenager and it causing problems it’s important that you get checked out.