Impotence, testicular atrophy, gynecomastia, and loss of sexual interest have often been associated with alcoholism in men. Sexual disorders have been reported in men who are long-term alcohol users, with the prevalence ranging from 8% to 58%. Use of ethanol might cause gonadal disorders, including structural testicular changes and a decrease in testicular and serum levels of T, which might be involved in the hypogonadism and feminization phenotype.
A reduction in sperm concentration and in the percentage of spermatozoa with normal morphology has been detected in chronic alcoholics and in smokers. Alcohol causes a significant decrease in the number of spermatozoa with normal morphology and an increase in irreversible tail defects.
It has been reported that ethanol abusers might exhibit sperm alterations, such as changes in the count, morphology, and viability of the spermatozoa. Alcohol exerts a dose-related toxic effect on testicular function.
In a recent study, published in the October issue of Fertility and Sterility, the reproductive function in chronic alcoholics was assessed to know the effects of alcoholism on reproductive function, to evaluate the effects of chronic alcoholism on the male fertility hormones and quality of semen. The intent of the study was also to help physicians treating alcoholics to have a better idea of these patients¡¯ reproductive function.
66 alcoholics free from smoking and drug abuse who consumed a minimum of 180 mL of alcohol per day (brandy and whisky, both 40%¨C50% alcohol content) for a minimum of 5 days per week for ¡Ý1 year were included in this study. 30 nonsmoking nonalcoholics were selected as controls. Before starting the addiction treatment for alcoholics, venous blood and semen samples were collected. Complete blood counts, biochemical parameters, levels of the male fertility hormones FSH, LH, T, PRL, P, and E2 in blood, and semen parameters were followed during the study.
In alcoholics, FSH, LH, and E2 levels were significantly increased, and T and P levels were significantly decreased. No significant change was noted in PRL levels. Semen volume, sperm count, motility, and number of morphologically normal sperm were significantly decreased.
This study, undertaken at The Tamil Nadu Dr. M.G.R. Medical University, Chennai, India proves that chronic alcohol consumption has a detrimental effect on male reproductive hormones and on the quality of semen, which, in turn, will make people who are addicted to alcohol impotent and sterile.
The authors, therefore, warn men to refrain from chronic alcohol consumption if they want to procreate and lead a normal sexual life.