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Male gonadal function in coeliac disease: 1. Sexual dysfunction, infertility, and semen quality
  1. M J G Farthing,
  2. C R W Edwards,
  3. L H Rees,
  4. A M Dawson

    Abstract

    The prevalence of hypogonadism, sexual dysfunction and abnormalities of semen quality was determined in 28 consecutive males with coeliac disease. These observations were related to jejunal morphology and nutritional status, and were compared with findings in 19 men with Crohn's disease of similar age and nutritional status. Two of the 28 coeliacs (7%) had clinical evidence of hypogonadism but impotence and decreased sexual activity occurred more commonly, the latter apparently improving after gluten withdrawal. Of the married coeliacs, 19% had infertile marriages, a value greater than expected in the general population. Hypogonadism and sexual dysfunction were not detected in our patients with Crohn's disease. Seminal analysis in coeliacs revealed marked abnormalities of sperm morphology and motility, but only the former appeared to improve after gluten withdrawal. Similar abnormalities, however, were also detected in patients with Crohn's disease, although, unlike the coeliacs, 46% also had reduced concentrations of spermatozoa. Semen quality in coeliac disease could not be clearly related to general or specific (serum vitamin B12 and red cell folate) nutritional deficiencies or to fertility, although sperm motility was markedly reduced in two of the three coeliacs with infertile marriages. The presence of antisperm antibodies did not appear to be an important aetiological factor in male infertility in coeliac disease. The pathogenesis of infertility and sexual dysfunction in coeliac disease remains unclear, suggesting that factors such as endocrine dysfunction or other specific nutritional deficiency may be involved.

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