We should know by now that all of life’s little “conveniences” come with their prices.  We have all been warned about the dangers of standing too close to the now essential microwave.  The potentially harmful emissions from cellular phones have haunted some of us who use them regularly.  I treat many people who have fallen victim to what I call “computer neck” daily.  As I sit writing this on my laptop computer I am grateful that I don’t have to worry about the condition of my fertility while I work.  Earlier this month researchers at The State University of New York at Stony Brook revealed the results of a study they performed that warns men who might want to start families not to use laptop computers. The daily repeated use of laptop computers can threaten their fertility.

Dr. Yefim Sheynkin, an associate professor of urology, led a research team in the project which studied 29 healthy volunteers and measured their scrotal temperature before and after using laptop computers.  The subjects reported that their scrotal temperature rose 2.1 degrees Centigrade just from sitting with their knees together to balance the computers on their laps.  After switching the computers on the temperatures rose another 2.6 to 2.8 degrees.  The rise in temperature is significant enough, according to Dr. Sheynkin, to alter both the quantity and the quality of the men’s sperm.  “It is difficult to tell how long the computer can be used safely,” Dr. Sheynkin says, “It may not be at all, if the testicular temperature goes up high within a very short period of time.”

Laptop computers have changed significantly in recent years.  As users demand more and more performance from the mini but mighty tools, laptops have to be more and more powerful to keep up the pace.  The more powerful they are the more heat they put off as they are running.  This increase in operating temperatures does pose a hazard for regular male users.  Men who are looking to procreate are told to avoid regular prolonged visits to hot tubs, saunas, gyms, and anything else which might cause an increase in scrotal temperature.  The problem with laptop use versus sauna and hot tub use is that the use of saunas and hot tubs for most men is only occasional and the time between uses allows the effects of scrotal heating to be reversed, according to Dr.Sheynkin.  Laptop use is a part of everyday life for an increasing population of men.  Now the favorite pastime of surfing the web for hours might become something to do on your desktop.  Men who work regularly on laptops could find a cushion or portable desktop to hold their computers might come in handy.  While you’re at it you’d better watch out for those new portable DVD players Santa is bringing.  They heat up similarly and should be put on something besides your lap to absorb the extra temperature.  No expert has done a study on that one yet, but it will happen soon enough.

While doctors agree that prolonged scrotal heat does alter the fertility of men they do not all agree that the laptop study is one that can be linked to infertility at this time.  The study at Stony Brook was small and the research is preliminary.  More will surely come as laptops become more powerful which will create more heat and as laptop use becomes even more prolific.

If there isn’t enough to worry about out there, gentlemen, watch your laptops.  For some men who have sworn off being fruitful and multiplying at all costs there might even be a new business opportunity out there for you.  Can’t you just imagine renting laptops not only for web-surfing but for assuring that your sperm will become fewer and will swim much slower?!  I can see the lines of men sitting in internet cafes all over the world now – thighs firmly squeezed together balancing the hottest new laptops on the market for hours on end!  Happy holidays.  Treat your body well.