Arthritis and Fertility

Is there an association between inflammatory arthritis and male fertility?

When people hear the word arthritis, they generally think about joint pain rather than fertility. Inflammatory arthritis, or "IA", is joint inflammation caused by an overactive immune system. However, researchers have started to investigate the association between AI and male fertility.

What is inflammatory arthritis?

Inflammatory arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that results in joint inflammation. It differs from osteoarthritis, or "OA," because OA is caused by physical use or wear and tear on the body. IA may be diagnosed in patients as young as 20 or 30, and OA generally appears in people after the age of 50.

Inflammatory Arthritis and Male Fertility

You may be surprised to learn that inflammatory arthritis has been associated with conditions like male infertility, erectile dysfunction, and low sex hormones (hypogonadism).

A 2021 study examined the impact of IA on male fertility and outcomes such as fertility rates, family planning, fertility difficulties, and childlessness.  The study included 628 people diagnosed with IA.Researchers concluded that “men diagnosed with IA before and during the peak of reproductive age had lower fertility rates, higher childlessness rates, and more fertility problems.”

The study also concluded that “increased awareness and more research into the causes behind this association are urgently needed.”

As mentioned earlier, IA can impact men as young as their 20s or 30s. The average paternal age, or age in which a man conceives a child, is approximately 31 (as of 2015), so men may be diagnosed with IA in their prime reproductive years.These effects may not be due to the inflammatory arthritis alone. Some researchers point out that the medications for inflammatory arthritis may have side effects like reduced sperm production and poor sperm quality.

It's always important to discuss diagnosis, treatment, and fertility goals with your medical provider.