If you and your partner are having trouble getting pregnant, then you may already be undergoing fertility testing or treatment. Male infertility accounts for up to 50% of all fertility issues, so it is a wise idea to have yourself tested. A semen analysis often brings to light fertility issues. In particular, many men discover that they have an elevated number of white blood cells in their semen. These white blood cells can negatively affect your fertility and may indicate an underlying health problem.
What Are White Blood Cells
White blood cells are an essential part of the body’s immune system. They help us to fight off invading cells and bacteria, keeping our bodies healthy and infection-free. Also known as leukocytes, white blood cells are produced in our bone marrow. They move throughout our bloodstream, attacking any foreign bacteria, fungi, or viruses. During an infection, an increased number of white blood cells can be found in certain areas of your body.
White Blood Cells in the Semen
White blood cells are found in pretty much any area of the body at any given time. They are typically found in small quantities in your semen and ejaculate. At low levels, white blood cells cannot affect your semen quality, and will thus have no impact on your fertility. However, high levels of white blood cells in your semen can cause serious fertility problems. Known as leukocytospermia, a high white blood cell count in semen is typically over one million leukocytes per milliliter.
How Common is Leukocytospermia?
Leukocytospermia is actually not that uncommon. It affects anywhere between 5% and 10% of the population, and may affect as many as 20% of those men currently seeking fertility treatment. Men who have undergone vasovasostomy tend to have more leukocytes in their semen than normal.
What Causes Leukocytospermia?
Leukocytospermia is typically the result of a genital tract infection. The presence of high levels of white blood cells is needed to help fight off the infection. STDs are commonly associated with leukocytospermia, particularly chlamydia and gonorrhea. Other genital tract infections may also cause an increase in white blood cells.