Causes of Male Infertility
Male infertility is any condition in which a man adversely affects the chances of initiating a pregnancy with his partner. Several factors can contribute to infertility, including structural and other defects in the reproductive system, hormonal deficiencies or illness. Some of the most common causes of male infertility include the following:
Sperm Disorders - Problems with the production and development of sperm, causing it to be underdeveloped, abnormally shaped, unable to move properly or produced in abnormally low numbers.
Varicoceles - Dilated scrotal veins that impair sperm development by preventing proper drainage of blood.
Retrograde ejaculation – Occurs when semen pushes backwards into the bladder instead of out the penis.
Immunologic infertility -Occurs when a man’s antibodies attack his sperm, preventing their normal movement and function.
Obstruction – A blockage of sperm from its normal passage, which prevents the transport of sperm from the testes to the urethra, where it leaves the body during ejaculation.
Hormones – May affect sperm development, especially pituitary gland hormones, which are responsible for stimulating the testicles to make sperm.
Genetics - May contribute to abnormalities in chromosomal numbers and structure, as well as deletions on the important Y chromosome present in normal males.
Medications – Can affect sperm production, function and ejaculation.
How is male infertility diagnosed?
In order to diagnose infertility, a complete history and physical exam are critical. Your urologist will probably also need blood work and a semen analysis. By analyzing your semen sample, your doctor will be able to evaluate various factors that may interfere with conception, including volume, count, concentration, movement and structure. A semen analysis with low levels, or even no sperm, does not necessarily mean absolute infertility. Low numbers may just indicate a problem with the development or delivery of sperm that requires further evaluation. Besides a semen analysis, your urologist may order a hormonal profile to determine the sperm-producing ability of your testes and to rule out serious conditions.
How is male infertility treated?
The treatment for male infertility depends on the specific problem. A variety of medications, surgical approaches and assisted reproductive techniques (ART) are available to overcome many underlying fertility problems. Some treatment options include the following: medication, surgery, intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). By working with your urologist, you should be able to find the treatment that is best for you and your particular fertility issues.