In this Article
Are there immune reactions to sperm after a vasectomy?
After vasectomy, the testes continue to make sperm. When the sperm cells die, they are absorbed by the body, much like unused sperm in a nonvasectomized man. Nevertheless, many vasectomized men develop immune reactions to sperm, although current evidence indicates that these reactions do not cause any harm.
Ordinarily, sperm do not come into contact with immune cells, so they do not elicit an immune response. But vasectomy breaches the barriers that separate immune cells from sperm, and many men develop anti-sperm antibodies after undergoing the procedure. This has given rise to concern on the part of doctors and researchers because immune reactions against parts of one's own body sometimes cause disease. Rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile diabetes, and multiple sclerosis are just some of the illnesses suspected or known to be caused by immune reactions of this type.
Immune reactions can also contribute to the development of atherosclerosis, the clogging of arteries that leads to heart attacks. In the late 1970s, after a study of 10 monkeys showed an increased risk of atherosclerosis in vasectomized animals, doctors became concerned that vasectomy might increase the risk of heart disease in men.
Other, more persuasive research results, however, indicated that these concerns were not warranted. In particular, the HSAM study provided a high level of reassurance. Researchers conducting this study found no evidence that vasectomized men were more likely than others to develop heart disease or any other immune illnesses.
But just as concerns about heart disease and immune ailments following vasectomy were being laid to rest, worries about prostate cancer were taking their place.
Get the latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox FREE!