Does Mumps Cause Male Infertility?

Man with mumps lying in bed.

What is Mumps?

Mumps (parotitis epidemica) is a viral infection that affects the salivary glands (parotid glands). It can be identified by painful inflammation and swelling on the side of the face and upper neck just below the ears.

Mumps can also cause headaches, joint pain, fever, and lethargy. These symptoms may occur several days prior to the swelling of the parotid gland.

Mumps is most common in children and teens, but it can also affect adults with poor immune function. The infection can last for up to 10 days, but it typically does not require any special treatment and usually resolves itself with time and rest.

Mumps-Related Orchitis

One in three males who develop mumps after puberty experiences pain and swelling in the testicle, a condition called orchitis. The swelling often occurs quickly and typically affects one testicle only. The testicle may be sore and inflamed.

Normally, swelling of testicles in affected males occurs 4-8 days after swelling of the parotid gland. Sometimes, swelling can occur as much as 6 weeks after the gland became swollen.

Does Mumps Affect Male Fertility?

Nearly half of all males who develop orchitis due to mumps experience shrinkage in their testicles. Research indicates that antisperm antibodies could be the reason for male fertility problems in these cases.

Additionally, an estimated 10% of these men will also experience a decrease in sperm count. However, this decline in sperm production is highly unlikely to be significant enough to cause infertility in men.

While most cases of mumps do not cause inflammation of the testicles, it is important to note that there has been an increase in the number of cases globally since 2006. Most of these cases involved young adults and individuals who were vaccinated.(1)

The risk of permanent infertility for those diagnosed with mumps-induced otitis is very low. Even so, you should consult a doctor if you have any concerns that you may currently be experiencing orchitis.


References:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/mumps/outbreaks.html
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