How the use of laptops might cause male infertility

Using laptop computers on the laps while working might cause male infertility
EJ
By Emeh Joy

Can technology add to factors that cause male infertility? Find out in this article how the use of laptops can possibly cause male infertility.

A study published on Human Reproduction Update showed a significant decline in sperm counts in men between 1973 and 2011.

Also, an article published on usatoday.com indicated that there had been a slump in the sperm count of men in the western world in the last four decades.

Studies like these have raised concerns s regarding reproduction in males. Male sperm counts might have been dropping, yet scientists can't tell exactly why.

Different theories and suggestions have been made regarding why there has been a decline in sperm counts or male fertility. Among some of the culprits that have been mentioned include an increase in testicular temperature, obesity, smoking and stress.

Increased testicular/scrotal temperature can cause sperm abnormality

Different studies have shown that an increase in testicular temperature is the cause of abnormal spermatogenesis in some common male infertility-related diseases such as undescended testicles and varicocele.

The testicles (also called testes) are the male reproductive organs responsible for two main functions- sperm production and the male hormone, testosterone production. Ideally, sperm production is at its best when the testicles are cooler than the body temperature.

Placing a computer on the laps while working can cause increase in scrotal or testicular temperature which can in turn cause sperm defects

High testicular temperature simply means when the temperature around the testicles is high. The testicles require a temperature that is about 2-4 degrees Celsius lower than that of the body in order to function optimally.

This means that for optimal functionality, the testicles requires a temperature of about 35 degrees Celcius (two degrees below the body temperature of 37 degrees Celsius).

The scrotum (or scrotal sac) is the skin that looks like a bag that holds the testicles and protects them. This means the testicles are enclosed within the scrotal sac.

Since the testis lies within the scrotum, an increased scrotal temperature could as well mean an increased testicular temperature.

The scrotum is external male genitalia and is located underneath and behind the penis. Normally during embryogenesis (the events that take place during the first eight weeks after fertilization), the testis is initially located intraperitoneally within the abdominal cavity.

But, around eight weeks of gestation, the testis starts descending (under the gubernaculum testis guidance) into the scrotum. It completes its descent by the middle of the third trimester.

When the testis don't make the move to descend into the scrotum, the condition is called cryptorchidism or undescended testicles.

Descent of testis into the scrotum (which lies outside the body) is one way to ensure that the testes are kept at a temperature cooler than that of the body.

However, in cases where the temperature of the testes increased, it can be detrimental to spermatogenesis and can as well damage already produced sperm cells.

When exposed to too much heat, the sperm cells can die, sperm production can reduce, and might lead to the formation of abnormally shaped sperm cells, which can all result in infertility.

How using laptop computers might affect male fertility

Every day, human beings are exposed to many chemicals, radioactive elements, toxins, and other environmental factors that can threaten their reproductive health and general state of well-being.

Most people tend to believe that females are at a higher risk of infertility issues. However, males also have challenges with exposure to certain environmental conditions, which reduce their sperm concentration and quality.

Today, one of such environmental exposures stems from technological advancements. Technology that emits heat and radiation can affect male fertility.

Sitting with legs closed while working with a laptop placed on the laps can cause heat to be trapped around the groin thus, increasing the temperature around the scrotum

Are you still wondering how the use of laptops can affect male fertility? Constant use of laptops for a long duration can result in overheating of the testis or scrotum! Remember, some people tend to place it on their laps (close to the scrotum) while using.

Laptops have been designed so that they are portable and can be comfortably used at any time and in any situation. However, when males use their laptops, placing them on their laps frequently, it can cause an increase in the scrotal temperature.

A study published in 2005 showed that the use of laptops can cause an increase in scrotal temperature.

"We did find that scrotal temperature increased and it increased significantly, in the men using laptop computers in the laptop position.

"The laptop computer may potentially impact fertility by increasing scrotal temperature", Dr Sefim Sheynkin, the associate professor of Urology who published the study, said.

The problem here isn't just about placing the laptop on the lap but also about the body's position while using the laptop.

The position of the body while using the laptop is that you sit with legs closed and the laptop placed directly on the laps, which traps the heat produced around the groin area.

However, while this study shows that laptop use can cause an increase in scrotal temperature, it didn't definitely prove sperm counts or fertility was affected in males that use laptop computers.

Dr Ajay Nangia, a director of andrology at the University of Kansas Health System speaking about the study, said that even though the study by Dr Sheynkin showed elevated temperature around the groin for men that used the laptops on their laps, there was no proof that there was a decline in the men's sperm count.

Another Doctor, Dr Joshua Hurwitz, a partner at Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut, believed that the heat emitted by laptops could cause infertility, especially when they are being placed on the laps and used for an extensive period of time.

Perhaps, more studies should be launched in this area to determine if the heat given off by laptops can cause male infertility after increasing the scrotal temperature.

Reasons you shouldn't use laptop computers on your laps

As new technologies become more rampant amongst students, businessmen, teachers, office workers etc., many men, particularly those in their reproductive age, tend to use their laptops frequently on their laps.

However, there are different reasons you should stop working with your laptop placed on your laps.

Ignore the fact that it is called a 'laptop' it is safer to have it placed on a desk while using it. There are different reasons not to use laptop computers on your laps.

Below are reasons why you should stop using your laptops on your laps:

Heat exposure around the genitalia

Studies have shown that just like the use of hot baths and saunas can increase scrotal temperatures, placing a laptop on the laps while working can also increase scrotal temperature.

Worse still, there is evidence that increased scrotal temperature might be associated with male infertility.

Even though there is no concrete report yet to say that increase in scrotal temperature amongst laptop computer users causes infertility in men, the possibility of that cannot be erased. Hence, men should avoid placing their laptops near the groin area while working.

Bad working posture

Since laptops are quite portable and mobile, it is of great advantage to many people. This means you can conveniently work with it an carry it around anywhere and any time.

Compared to desktop computer, laptops support a wider variety of environments; thus, people have more tendency to use the laptop for longer durations.

Since this is the case, it is not rare to see people place laptop computers on their laps working for long hours, not minding that they are putting a strain on their spinal cord.

Working a laptop on your lap for an extended period of time might lead to a poor working posture which can result in back and neck pain and should be avoided.

Wi-Fi Radiofrequency radiation hazards

A study published in the January 2012 issue of Fertility and Sterility discussed the bad effects of sperm exposure to Wi-Fi radiation. According to the study, it directly evaluates the impact of laptop usage on sperm cells.

The study suggested that using laptops connected through Wi-Fi to the internet increases sperm DNA fragmentation while reducing sperm cell motility.

However, this study had some shortcomings as it failed to pay attention to the fact that EMFs generated by laptops not connected via Wi-Fi can as well cause a reduction in sperm motility.

Another study by Mortazavi et al. reported a similar topic, but this time, in an animal model.

Whichever case, there is a possibility that Wi-Fi radiofrequency radiations from laptops can be hazardous and can affect sperm cells or male fertility.

It can cause burn to the skin

People who spend lots of time using their laptops on their laps have the tendency to develop 'toasted skin syndrome'. This condition also called erythema ab igne is characterised by rashes or unusual mottled skin condition.

The toasted skin condition is typically caused by long-term heat exposure and develops over time depending on how long you used the laptop on your laps and how hot it gets.

This skin condition is generally harmless and can resolve itself when exposure is stopped. However, it can also cause permanent skin discolouration.

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