Infertility in males is a condition that affects as many as 10% of couples trying to have a child. The reasons for male infertility can be divided into two categories, primary and secondary.
Primary infertility is a condition in which a male is infertile from birth or very early in life, even before puberty.
In other words, he was born with a problem that prevents him from producing sperm.
Secondary infertility is the inability to conceive after successfully doing so at least once before. It means that your male partner has not been able to get a woman pregnant during this current conception attempt, even though he could do so previously.
There are many different causes of male infertility. They may be categorized as genetic, environmental, or unknown.
Genetic factors: These can include disorders such as Klinefelter syndrome and cystic fibrosis that are passed down through families. They can also include syndromes or diseases like mumps (an infection caused by a virus) that cause testicular damage.
Environmental factors: Exposure to chemicals in industrial solvents, pesticides, and other substances has been linked to infertility in men who work with them on an ongoing basis. Alcoholism leads to vitamin deficiency and even liver disease which can affect sperm production.
Cigarette smoking is also associated with lower sperm counts. In addition, chemicals found in foods and water supplies have been shown to affect male fertility levels negatively; these include caffeine from coffee drinks as well as pesticides used on fruits and vegetables sprayed with ethyl carbamate.
Unknown causes: Many cases of male infertility are idiopathic—meaning there is no obvious cause for the condition but it is still treatable using assisted reproductive technology methods like artificial insemination (IUI) or IVF-ICSI – In Vitro Fertilization Intra Cytoplasmatic Sperm Injection).
Genetics is another cause of male infertility. If your father or brother has had fertility problems, there’s a 25 percent chance that you will too. The most common genetic causes of male infertility include cystic fibrosis and Klinefelter syndrome.
Obesity can cause male infertility. Excess weight can affect your ability to have kids in several ways. For example, if you’re obese, your sperm may move too slowly and be less healthy than those of men who are at a normal weight. In addition, overweight men are more likely to have problems with erectile dysfunction (ED). ED is an inability to get or keep an erection firm enough for sex.
Here are a few other causes of male infertility.
This condition occurs when blood vessels in the scrotum become enlarged, twisted, and dilated. Varicoceles are more common in men who have had mumps orchitis as a child (a painful swelling of the testicles that can cause infertility) and those who have had testicular torsion (twisting of the spermatic cord).
Another thing that could cause varicocele is a previous injury to your testicles. An injury can cause bruising or bleeding within your testicles, which may prevent them from producing normal sperm counts.
Bruising or bleeding may also occur during surgery for other reasons, such as for an inguinal hernia repair, or after treatment for cancerous tumors on your adrenal glands.
If you’re a man and have been unable to conceive with your partner, there’s a good chance that your undescended testicles, also known as cryptorchidism, are the culprit.
Undescended testicles are one of the most common causes of male infertility, accounting for 10 percent to 20 percent of all cases.
The condition occurs when one or both testicles fail to descend from the abdomen into the scrotum during fetal development.
If left untreated, this condition can lead to sterility later in life because it prevents sperm production and keeps sperm from being released properly.
However, surgery is available to correct this issue, and it’s important not to put off treatment if you believe your infertility may be caused by an undescended testicle.
The earlier these conditions are corrected through surgery, the greater chance couples will have of achieving a healthy pregnancy.
Infections such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Infections, such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause male infertility. The most common STIs that affect men and women are chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and molluscum contagiosum.
These diseases are usually transmitted through sexual contact with an infected partner but can also be passed from mother to child during pregnancy.
STIs can be treated with antibiotics if caught early enough before the infection causes permanent damage to your reproductive system or other organs in your body.
Problems with sperm production or function
Sperm production problems or sperm function issues can be caused by things like:
- Abnormalities in the testes (the male sex glands)
- Testicular cancer or other diseases that affect the reproductive organs
- Undescended testicles, which are more common in boys than in men. If a boy’s testicles do not descend into his scrotum before he is about 5 years old, it could lead to infertility later in life.
Sperm production problems can also occur if you have been exposed to certain chemicals or had radiation therapy for cancer.
Hormonal imbalances, such as those caused by taking steroids or testosterone supplements can also cause irregular sperm production and eventual infertility.
Other health conditions that can affect male fertility include diabetes and thyroid disease. Medications, including some drugs used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension), depression, and heart problems may also decrease your sperm count or ability to have an erection
Antibodies affecting sperm
You might have noticed that some men have low sperm counts. That’s because antibodies, proteins made by the immune system to fight infections, can sometimes attach to sperm and make them unable to move. Antibodies may also attack sperm cells, making them unable to fertilize an egg by fertility doctor.
People with autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis develop these antibodies against their own tissues.
In some men, these same antibodies can cause problems with fertility by attacking sperm cells or blocking their ability to move through the reproductive organs.
Tumors and cancer treatment
While tumors and cancer treatment are less common causes of male infertility, they can still be serious.
Tumors that affect the testicles include testicular cancer and benign tumors, like teratomas.
Cancer treatments that may cause infertility include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, surgery, and other treatments.
Radiation therapy can damage sperm-producing cells in the testicles, chemotherapy drugs can kill sperm-producing cells as well as blood cells, surgery to remove or treat tumors may also cause infertility, and some hormonal therapies can disrupt sperm production.
In case you’ve undergone any of these treatments and are suffering from infertility, we’d recommend that you visit your doctor as soon as possible to see how best to resolve the issue.
If you’re experiencing infertility, the first step is to visit your primary care doctor or gynecologist. Your physician will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your medical history, lifestyle habits, and family background.
He or she will also recommend that you take certain tests such as blood work and urinalysis to rule out any underlying medical conditions.
If the doctor finds no physical cause for your infertility, he or she may refer you to a reproductive endocrinologist. This type of specialist specializes in reproductive medicine and is trained to perform the procedures necessary to treat infertility.
Your doctor would determine which treatment would be right for you based on your specific condition and lifestyle needs.