What is orchitis? What impact does it have on male fertility?

Mumps rubalavirus leads to an illness during infancy that is commonly known as mumps and that can, in some cases, affect male fertility and lead to male fertility issues.

In cases such as these, the illness can affect the testes by between 25 and 40% and this poses an added complication. This condition is known as orchitis.

It mainly affects boys over the age of 10 and its symptoms become apparent around four or six days after suffering from mumps (inflammation of the parotid gland).

The mechanism that leads to the testes being affected (and which is still the subject of studies) consists of the antibodies that are produced by the mumps viral infection and that attack the spermatozoa.

Sometimes, damage can be produced long term to the seminiferous tubules and sperm ducts. Sometimes this damage is permanent and causes an absence of spermatozoa in the ejaculate and, therefore, infertility.

The damage can be unilateral or bilateral. The most significant complication is when the patient has ischaemia (restricted blood supply to the testes) caused by the inflammation and this affects testicular atrophy. Since the issue is not bilateral or not total in many cases, sperm retrieval techniques such as FNA, a multiple testicular biopsy, etc. can be used before needing to contemplate the option of donor sperm.

Thanks to the personalised assessment that we perform using appropriate studies, the Urology Unit at Instituto Bernabeu can assign the use of donor sperm to cases when there really is no alternative.

Dr Luís Prieto, Director of Urology at Instituto Bernabeu

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