Iron and a Man’s Reproductive Health: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
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Purpose of Review
To discuss the physiologic and pathologic effects of iron on men’s reproductive health.
Iron overload diseases are associated with hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, infertility, and sexual dysfunction in men. Recent findings have elucidated the roles by which iron may affect the male reproductive axis.
Iron is requisite for life. Iron can also catalyze the production of reactive oxygen species. To maintain balance, the human body tightly regulates dietary iron absorption. Severe iron overload disorders—e.g., hereditary hemochromatosis and β-thalassemia—occur when these regulatory mechanisms are deficient. While iron is necessary, the male reproductive system is particularly sensitive to iron overload. Hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, infertility, and sexual dysfunction commonly occur if excess iron from iron overload disorders is not removed. The average male in the USA consumes significantly more iron than needed to replace daily losses. How this degree of iron loading may affect one’s reproductive health remains less clear, but there is evidence it may have adverse effects.
KeywordsIron overload Hypogonadotropic hypogonadism Male infertility Erectile dysfunction Oxidative stress Anejaculation
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
J. Scott Gabrielsen is supported in part by NIH K12 DK0083014 Multidisciplinary K12 Urologic Research Career Development Program (to DJL).
Dolores J. Lamb and Larry I. Lipshultz each declare no potential conflicts of interest.
Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent
This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.
Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance
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