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SMOKING is a major cause of impotence and low sperm count, a leading Welsh surgeon has warned as part of Men’s Health Week.
Professor Gareth Brown, Consultant Urological Surgeon at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, has urged male smokers to quit the habit or risk suffering erectile dysfunction and reduced sperm count.

He explained that smoking restricts blood flow to the penis, and said that it also affects the quality and quantity of men’s sperm, potentially leading to infertility in male smokers:

Professor Gareth Brown

“I think with all the press and publicity today most people are aware of how unhealthy smoking is but they don’t associate it with being a cause of erectile dysfunction. We now know that smoking leads to a narrowing of the blood vessels caused by some of the chemicals inhaled, and also through the formation of a plaque called atherosclerosis which restricts the blood flow to the penis leading to erectile dysfunction.

“It can also cause male infertility by affecting sperm production by reducing the quality and quantity.”

Professor Brown went on to say, however, that quitting smoking can reverse or reduce some of these effects:

Stopping smoking can improve and in some cases may reverse the symptoms particularly fertility and erectile dysfunction. It depends on the quantity and duration smoked. Long term smoking has detrimental effects some of which cannot be reversed, however smoking cessation can stop symptoms progressing and make treatments more effective.”

An Australian study carried out by researchers from Imperial College London in 2006, found that men who smoke a pack or more of cigarettes daily are nearly 40% more likely to be impotent than non-smokers. Meanwhile even smoking less than 20 cigarettes a day was found to increase the risk of impotence by 24%.
Across Wales, 21% of men smoke compared to 17% of women. Smoking rates are highest in the most deprived areas the country; 28% compared to 13% in the most affluent areas.

Suzanne Cass, CEO of ASH Wales, urged male smokers to seek help to quit: “We know that breaking the cycle of addiction is a huge challenge for smokers. But our message to men is that they don’t need to suffer in silence.
“NHS Wales’ Help me quit service offers free tailored support to all smokers in Wales and is just a phone call or email away. Taking your first step on the journey to a smoke-free life won’t be easy but it’s a move you’ll never regret.”

Martin Tod is Chief Executive of the Men’s Health Forum, organisers of Men’s Health Week. He said:

Even today, in Wales, nearly one man in five dies before the age of 65 – before retirement age – and smoking is still the biggest avoidable cause of early death for men in Wales. Men are still more likely to smoke than women. But smoking doesn’t just kill men, it’s also a big cause of impotence and low sperm count. There’s no shame in getting help to quit. Addiction is tough to tackle, but there’s good free support out there and it makes a real difference.”

Across Wales 19% of adults smoke and there are 5,388 smoking attributable deaths in Wales every year. Smoking costs the NHS in Wales £302million a year and in 2017 lung cancer caused more deaths in Wales than bowel and breast cancer combined.

Dr Ramsey Sabit, is Respiratory Consultant at Spire Cardiff Hospital and the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board. He said: “We know that half of smokers will die of a condition directly related to their habit and that a smoker will lose an average of 10 years off their life expectancy.

So, my message to male smokers is simple – if you want to live a longer life with less chance of a whole host of chronic diseases, then it is essential to stop smoking. It is never too late to give up but giving up completely is essential as even a few cigarettes per day increase your risks of smoking related disease.”

For support to give up smoking contact Help Me Quit on 0800 085 2219.

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