Male Infertility Probed
A "Very Treatable" Condition
John Harrist is a typical male partner in an infertile relationship, Lipshultz says. Doctors couldn't find anything wrong with Laurie Harrist, so two years ago, they asked her husband to come in for an exam. Males often are overlooked in infertile couples, Lipshultz says, because they are seen as "just sperm producers." But almost half the time, it's the man who has the infertility problem, and male infertility is "very treatable."
Harrist was shocked when he found out he flunked his sperm test. The normal male is supposed to have between 60 million and 120 million sperm per milliliter of semen. Harrist's count was only 180,000 per milliliter. Also, his motility (the swim-like movement of sperm) was only 5%, meaning that just five of every 100 sperm were active. "I was scared to death," Harrist says. His wife had to leave work that day because "she was crying so hard."
Lipshultz determined that Harrist had circulation problems and performed a bilateral varicocele repair, relocating veins on either side of the testicles. The operation improves blood flow and lowers body temperature in the groin region. Harrist was sore for a few days but says the operation was "well worth what I hope it will accomplish" because test results showed dramatic improvement. Harrist's sperm count in November 1998 rose to 3.3 million, and motility increased to between 35% and 40%, according to the patient's medical files. But the numbers still weren't high enough, so Lipshultz recommended proXeed.
Harrist has been on the drug for four and a half months, taking it twice a day, seven days a week. His recent sperm counts have ranged between 3.5 million and 4.2 million, and his motility has varied from 30% to 40%. "I would definitely say it's helped me," Harrist says.
Harrist, however, is not a participant in the ongoing study of proXeed. He was disqualified because of his operation.
Harrist's sperm quality has improved while he has been on proXeed, Lipshultz says. Sperm quality is the subjective evaluation of how well sperm move. It's scored on a scale from 0 to 4.0, which is considered perfect. Harrist scored a 2.0 on sperm quality before his surgery, Lipshultz says. After the surgery, Harrist's score briefly rose to 2.5, then dropped again to 2.0. After he went on proXeed, Harrist's score rose again to 2.5, Lipschultz says.