Infertility affects millions of Americans every year. About 9% of men and about 11% of women of reproductive age in the United States have experienced fertility problems (1). In approximately half of infertile couples, the problem is with the man.
There are many reasons for a man to experience reproductive health issues. Leading causes of male infertility include urogenital infections, disorders of the immune system, testicular and prostate pathology, and endocrine disorders (2).
While several treatments are prescribed to individuals looking to improve fertility factors such as sperm motility and testosterone hormone levels, an increasing body of evidence suggests Low Laser Light Therapy (LLLT) is an effective remedial treatment for those hoping to improve their sexual health via the process of Photobiomodulation (PBM) (2,3,4).
This review will look at the causes of male fertility before explaining how Photobiomodulation Therapy (PMBT) and Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) can be used to improve many infertility factors.
What Causes Male Infertility?
A complete lack of sperm is the cause of infertility in about 15% of infertile men. When a man does not produce sperm, it is called azoospermia. One of the leading causes of azoospermia is a hormone imbalance or a blockage of sperm movement (6).
Another cause of male infertility is when an individual produces less sperm than usual. This condition is called oligospermia or a low sperm count. Once again, there are many possible causes for this condition. However, the most common cause of oligospermia is varicocele, a condition that describes enlargement of the veins in the scrotum.
Broadly speaking, infertility can be broken down into two categories: conditions that affect sperm formation and conditions that affect sperm transport.
Conditions That Affect Sperm Formation
Conditions that affect the formation of sperm in the testicles are broad and varied. Each of the below conditions can contribute to the malformation or low production of sperm cells:
Hyperprolactinemia – overproduction of a hormone called prolactin made by the pituitary gland
Injury to the testicle
Insensitivity to hormones called androgens, which include testosterone
Swelling of the testicles from infections such as mumps, gonorrhea, or chlamydia
Cryptorchidism (undescended testicles)
However, biological factors do not cover all causes of male infertility. There are many lifestyle, environmental, and age-related factors that may play their part, such as:
Heavy use of alcohol
Being overweight or obese
Exposure to toxins, such as pesticides, herbicides, and heavy metals
Conditions That Affect Sperm Transportation
Even if a male’s body produces high-quality sperm, sometimes other conditions inhibit the body’s ability to transport sperm from the testicles to the female egg.
For instance, sperm may move too slowly or not at all, which is known as poor sperm motility. This condition is known either as asthenospermia or asthenozoospermia and is defined as sperm with forward progressions of less than 25 micrometers per second.
There are varying degrees of this condition, including:
Slow or sluggish progressive motility
Non-progressive motility – defined as anything less than five micrometers per second
However, other conditions prevent conception by removing the ability to transport sperm from the testicles to the penis. The inability to transport sperm to the penis can be caused by blockages in the tubes that transport sperm from the testicles to the penis. Many men with cystic fibrosis lack these tubes entirely. Erectile dysfunction and retrograde ejaculation (whereby the sperm is secreted into the bladder instead of the penis) are other common issues that fall into this category.
In total, conditions that prevent sperm from traveling between the testicles and the penis are responsible for roughly 10% to 20% of male infertility cases (5). With the causes of male infertility reviewed, it’s time to assess how Low laser Light Therapy (LLLT) and Photobiomodulation Therapy (PBMT) interact with the male body, in many cases improving male fertility (2,3,4).
What is Low Laser Light Therapy (LLLT) and Photobiomodulation (PBM)?
Low Laser Light Therapy (LLLT) is a form of Photobiomodulation (PBM) treatment that elicits photophysical and photochemical events at various biological scales, including right down to the mitochondrial level (7). Photobiomodulation Therapy (PBMT) is a form of light therapy that utilizes any non-ionizing forms of light sources, including lasers, LEDs, and broadband light, in the visible and near-infrared spectrum.
In the case of LLLT, individuals are subjected to a laser light source placed near or in contact with the skiing, allowing the light energy (photons) to penetrate tissue and interact with chromophores located in cells, resulting in the above-mentioned photophysical and photochemical changes. Conventional PBM Therapy (PBMT) often uses LED light sources to achieve the same outcome.
LLLT has already been proven to reduce inflammation, accelerate wound healing and tissue regeneration, and increase circulation (8). However, an increasing body of research is emerging that shows the positive effect PBMT (and LLLT) treatments have on sexual wellness, testosterone, and other male reproductive health conditions (2,3,4).
Low Laser Light Therapy (LLLT), Photobiomodulation Light Therapy (PBMT), and Male Infertility
As previously mentioned, many studies have been carried out to assess the potential of LLLT and PBMT in the realm of male reproductive and infertility issues, with promising results. Within scientific studies, the available evidence suggests that LLLT and PMBT positively influence male infertility factors (2,3,4). A recent literature review suggests laser therapy should be used as much as possible in managing male infertility, not just due to high effectiveness but also because of the lack of alternatives (4).
Studies conducted thus far have focused on disparate elements of male reproductive health. Thus, it’s worth looking into more detail regarding the specific interactions between these specific infertility factors in their own right.
PMBT, LLLT, and Asthenozoospermia. Recent studies have shown PBMT to help all parameters of the above-mentioned condition of asthenozoospermia, which inhibits progressive movement and survival rates of sperm.
One study found that LLLT improves the survival, motility, and speed of movement of sperm. Laser therapy of patients with prostatitis and vesiculitis helped eliminate infiltrative-exudative changes and improved reproductive and copulatory functions (2).
Another study compared thirty men undergoing experimental treatments for asthenozoospermia. Upon treating those with the condition with PBM light therapy, the proportion of rapidly progressive sperm increased, decreasing the ratio of immotile sperm. They also found improvements occurred regardless of the wavelength used (3). Thus, males who have been diagnosed with sperm motility issues may want to consider using LLLT or PBMT to improve motility performance.
PBMT, LLLT, and Azoospermia
Despite impressive results for treating male infertility issues centered on the motility of sperm, there have also been studies that demonstrate that PMBT (and LLLT) are also effective at treating conditions such as azoospermia (an inability to produce sperm) or oligospermia (low sperm count).
In testing on infertile mice, PBMT treatment at a density of 0.03 J/cm2 was found to significantly increase spermatogenic cells and increase GSH, ATP, and SDH levels (critical elements required for the production of sperm) (9).
A similar study also found that PMBT largely improves sperm and stereological parameters such as spermatogonia, primary spermatocyte, round spermatid and Leydig cells, and an increasing level of GSH activity (10).
Thus, the available evidence confirms that males suffering from low sperm counts or an absence of sperm altogether should consider light or laser therapy treatment to boost key sperm parameters.
PBMT, LLLT, and Testosterone
As discussed, testosterone has a prominent role in men’s health, and more specifically, in the production of sperm. The good news is that the production of this vital androgen also increases after an individual has been subjected to PBMT treatments and LLLT (2,9,10).
Multiple studies have confirmed the ability of PBM therapies to increase testosterone hormone levels, which have directly led to improvements in vital fertility parameters without experiencing any adverse effects (9,10).
Where Can Men Receive Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) and Photobiomodulation Light Therapy (PBMT) Treatments?
The team at Lighthouse Health can offer a range of PBM treatments using light and laser sources. They guide clients through scientifically sound methods proven to reap positive results, using only the best equipment.
Lighthouse Health uses the RegenPod Q8, a medical-grade whole body LED-based PBM pod. This full-body light therapy pod bathes the user in red and near-infrared light, helping to boost testosterone and sperm parameters.
Lighthouse Health also provides cold laser treatment with the EVOlaser (Gen 2) Class-4 Therapy Laser System, a more targeted method for boosting sperm counts and improving sperm motility.
The Lighthouse team of experts and engineers leverage innovative technology to provide customers with the best possible laser or light therapy experience. They carefully adjust the dosages, wavelengths, and pulses of red and near-infrared light for each customer and follow strict, risk-free procedures that best provide the benefits of PBM.
Book a free introductory session with Lighthouse Health today to see how we can help boost your reproductive health! Or, if you want to check out the latest news and updates on light therapy, check out our educational content and follow us on social media.
Chandra, A., Copen, C.E., & Stephen, E.H. (2013). Infertility and Impaired Fecundity in the United States, 1982-2010 Data From the National Survey of Family Growth. National Health Statistics Reports, 67, 1-19. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr067.pdf
Vladimirovich Moskvin, Sergey, and Oleg Ivanovich Apolikhin. “Effectiveness of Low Level Laser Therapy for Treating Male Infertility.” BioMedicine, vol. 8, no. 2, p. 7. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.1051/bmdcn/2018080207
Ban Frangez, Helena, et al. “Photobiomodulation with Light-Emitting Diodes Improves Sperm Motility in Men with Asthenozoospermia.” Lasers in Medical Science, vol. 30, no. 1, Jan. 2015, pp. 235–40. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10103-014-1653-x
Apolikhin, O. I., and S. V. Moskvin. “[Laser therapy for men's infertility. Part 2. Systematic review of clinical trials].” Urologiia (Moscow, Russia: 1999), no. 6, Dec. 2017, pp. 164–71.
Jose-Miller, Alaina B., et al. “Infertility.” American Family Physician, vol. 75, no. 6, Mar. 2007, pp. 849–56.
Agarwal, Ashok, et al. “A Schematic Overview of the Current Status of Male Infertility Practice.” The World Journal of Men’s Health, vol. 38, no. 3, July 2020, pp. 308–22. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.5534/wjmh.190068
Lucas Freitas de Freitas, and Michael R. Hamblin. “Proposed Mechanisms of Photobiomodulation or Low-Level Light Therapy.” IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics: A Publication of the IEEE Lasers and Electro-Optics Society, vol. 22, no. 3, June 2016, p. 7000417. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1109/JSTQE.2016.2561201
Mitrofanis, John, and Glen Jeffery. “Does Photobiomodulation Influence Ageing?” Aging (Albany NY), vol. 10, no. 9, Sept. 2018, pp. 2224–25. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.18632/aging.101556
Rezaei, Fatereh, et al. “Photobiomodulation Therapy Improves Spermatogenesis in Busulfan-Induced Infertile Mouse.” Reproductive Sciences (Thousand Oaks, Calif.), Apr. 2021. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1007/s43032-021-00557-8
Hasani, Amirhosein, et al. “Photobiomodulation Restores Spermatogenesis in the Transient Scrotal Hyperthermia-Induced Mice.” Life Sciences, vol. 254, Aug. 2020, p. 117767. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lfs.2020.117767