The type of underwear you choose may have an impact upon your sexual health, causing allergies, pain and infertility.
Even though Y-fronts have been around for 80 years they are still the choice of many men with 500,000 pair being given as Christmas presents this year.
Where you live has some bearing on what style of underpants you wear, with Scottish men preferring Y-fronts, Londoners and Northerners wear snug trunks and men in Wales and the Midlands feel more comfortable in baggy boxers.
Allergic to your pants?
Many men suffer from a form of contact dermatitis called intertrigo, more commonly known as “jock itch”. This is caused by a combination of eczema, a slight fungal infection and irritant such as sweat, all contributing to making the skin feel sore and red.
Men who exercise regularly are more prone to it, especially during the summer months when the weather is warmer as fungi need warm moist conditions to thrive but it can affect all men.
The rubber elastic in the waistband can trigger an allergic reaction such as itching and rash- like symptoms by sticking to the skin and shedding small particles of rubber.
Artificial dyes can cause problems too. Phenylenediamine (PDD), a compound used in black dye is often used in cheaper, poor quality pants, causing skin irriations so choose reputable brands or avoid buying black pants.
Christopher Eden, Professor of urology at the Royal Surrey County Hospital suggests sticking to underpants made from absorbent materials such as cotton which will soak up sweat and keep it away from the skin to prevent allergies and contact dermatitis.
Materials such as silk, nylon and Lycra can exacerbate the problem, especially if they are tight body fitting designs which keep the material and testicles close to the body.
Best pants to increase chances of conceiving
As sperm requires a slightly lower temperature than the rest of the body to work efficiently, consultant urologist Mr Zaki Almallah recommends that men with fertility problems wear loose fitting pants such as boxers to keep the testicles away from the body and prevent them from overheating.
Professor Allan Pacey published a study in 2012 that found men who wore tight fitting pants had a lower concentration of moving sperm than men who wore boxers.
Sperm production can be affected by the material your pants are made from. In 1993 Professor Ahmed Shafik, a researcher in human sexual physiology, found that wearing polyester pants for two years significantly reduced sperm production, decreased their motility and increased the amount of damaged sperm.
The study, carried out on dogs wearing polyester pants, found that all the changes to sperm health were reversed when the dogs stopped wearing the pants.
The study was repeated in 1999 on humans with similar results.
Polyester is a good insulator and more restrictive than cotton, holding the testicles closer to the body, therefore raising their temperature.
Wearing cotton, loose fitting pants is recommended to promote optimum sperm health.
Testicular aches and pains
Some men experienced general aches and pains in their groin area which can be alleviated by wearing snug fitting underwear. The reason for these symptoms is often unknown and tends to affect men aged 20-40, disappearing as quickly as it occurred.
Some men experience pain on a regular basis, others after ejaculation or sitting for a long time while driving.
Wearing loose fitting pants should avoid squashing the testes but some men find tight fitting pants limit movement, therefore preventing the testes from being knocked and causing pain. Men who undergo a vasectomy are often advised to wear tight fitting pants for a few days post operatively to inhibit swelling and bleeding.
Men who have epididymis, inflammation of the epididymis which is the tube at the back of the testes where sperm is stored, can find wearing tight fitting underwear painful. This condition is associated with sexually transmitted diseases (STI) and men who think they may have this condition should seek medical advice and treatment.
Men who experience sudden, severe pain in their testes should seek emergency medical treatment immediately as it may be torsion of the testicles. This occurs when the testicle twists around on itself creating a blockage in the blood vessel to the testicle and causing collection of blood which makes the testicle swell.
A simple surgical procedure will untwist the tube and allow normal blood flow to resume.
Some men have varicoceles, a form of varicose veins in their scrotum which is often symptomless but can cause a dull ache. Just like varicose veins, the failure of the valves in the veins cause blood to pool, stretching the walls of the vein and enlarging it.
The pooling of the blood increases the temperature around the testes which can affect sperm production.
Studies have shown that men with varicoceles often have reduced fertility and lower levels of testosterone.
It is recommended that men with varicoceles wear loose fitting pants to protect their fertility but often they prefer wearing tight fitting pants to avoid getting their testicles knocked.
Clean pants daily please
According to a survey by Mintel in 2013, 20% of British men do not change their pants daily. A combination of not showering or bathing frequently and wearing the same pants for several days can lead to fungal infections such as thrush. Men get very sweaty and often scratch themselves, transferring bacteria from their bottom which stay on the pants.
Why go commando?
Going commando reduces sweating, risks of developing skin infections and can improve fertility. Many men prefer to wear pants underneath their trousers for hygiene reasons and to reduce having to wash their trousers frequently or having them dry cleaned. Also, friction against trousers may cause skin irritations and getting your pubic hair or penis caught in the fly is painful, to say the least!
Change your pants daily or ensure that you shower or bathe once a day even if you wear your pants for more than one day to avoid skin irritations and prevent infections.
If you can’t face going pants free, ensure that you sleep without pants to allow the area to breathe and to keep the testes cool, aiding fertility and keeping your testicles in good sexual health.