Can Diabetes Affect Fertility In Men And Women? Expert Decodes The Link – NDTV Doctor

Diabetes is a chronic condition when left uncontrolled may affect fertility

The human body is a complex machine; every function carried out is intricately intertwined with the other. Thus, the malfunction of one activity does not exist as a single entity and can cause a cascade of problems. People diagnosed with diabetes are often asked to keep their blood sugar levels in check and are well acquainted with the complications that might arise in blood vessels, nerves and kidney. In a similar tangent, it can also affect the fertility in both men and women.

Diabetes is a disease related to the metabolism of glucose, a simple carbohydrate. When a person consumes sugars which are big in size, it is broken down into smaller substances known as glucose so that they can be taken up by cells from blood. A hormone called insulin, produced by beta cells of the pancreas, is required by glucose to enter cells where they further break down to provide energy. In people with diabetes, this hormone is either not produced in adequate quantity by the pancreas or it is not utilised in a manner that it should be. Since glucose is unable to enter cells in such persons, it remains in the blood, therefore leading to high levels of blood sugar (hyperglycaemia).

Years of research indicate that the functioning of insulin and blood glucose levels are players in the vast field that determines people's reproductive wellbeing.

In men, diabetes shows its influence in the form of changed hormonal levels, reduced sperm quality, and difficulty in getting an erection and with ejaculation.

According to a study published in the Asian Journal of Andrology, the function of testes and the development of sperms (spermatogenesis) are impacted in case of both type-1 and type-2 diabetes. Sperm DNA fragmentation is a phenomenon wherein the genetic makeup of the sperm is compromised - there is a dramatically higher incidence of the same. This is also associated with bad quality of embryos and their poor rate of implantation.

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As per a research in the Front Endocrinol, men with type-1 diabetes produce sperms that are not as motile as their counterparts, and this is observed to deteriorate with time. Mitochondria (a microscopic cell organelle that contains DNA) determines sperm motility, thus an alteration in mitochondrial DNA due to diabetes can alter sperm motility affecting fertilisation. The sperm count may also be low.

Also read:Here's Everything You Need To Know About Male Infertility Diagnosis

Management of blood sugar levels can help control complications linked with diabetesPhoto Credit: iStock

Diabetes has shown to have a correlation with women's reproductive system.

It has been found that women with type-1 diabetes observe reproductive trends different from those who don't have it. It leads to a delay in menarche, that is, the onset of puberty in females and early natural menopause, that is, the cessation of menses - this decreases the woman's reproductive window by 17%, as per American Diabetes Association.

Also read: Tips To Manage Diabetes

In type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance is observed. In addition to an excess of blood sugar, there is also additional insulin that is not being utilised. Research has shown that insulin resistance is linked to the increased production of male androgens (hyperandrogenism) in women; although the converse is true for males. This includes higher levels of testosterone, creating an imbalance of hormones required for proper reproductive functioning.


(Dr Kshitiz Murdia, CEO, Co-founder & IVF Specialist at Indira IVF)

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Can Diabetes Affect Fertility In Men And Women? Expert Decodes The Link - NDTV Doctor

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