What Is Male Infertility?
According to WomensHealth.gov, approximately one-third of infertile
couples have problems with male infertility. Male infertility usually occurs when men produce damaged
or insufficient amounts of sperm. It can also be caused by blockages that keep
sperm from being ejaculated.
What Are the Risk Factors for Male Infertility?
There are a variety of risk
factors for male infertility. They include:
- age over 35
- heavy alcohol use
- use of certain illicit
drugs, such as anabolic steroids
- bicycling for long
periods, especially on a hard saddle
- being overweight or
- a history of
sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- toxin exposure
- testicles that are
kept too warm
- prior vasectomy or reversal
- inherited fertility
- some medical
conditions, including Celiac disease (an autoimmune digestive disease), genetic
chromosome defects, and certain cancers
- certain medical
treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation
Sperm Disorders & Male Infertility
Sperm problems are a major cause of infertility in men.
These disorders include:
- low sperm count, i.e. too few or no
sperm in the semen
- low sperm motility, i.e. sperm that
don’t move as well as they should
- malformation of the sperm
A number of factors can affect sperm production.
Varicocele is a common cause of male infertility. Men
with this condition have enlarged veins around the vas deferens. The vas
deferens are the ducts that carry sperm from the testicles to the urethra.
Varicocele causes blood to pool around the testicles.
This makes the temperature inside the scrotum increase. Heat can lower sperm
Infections can interfere with sperm production, health,
and movement. They can also cause scarring that
blocks the passage of sperm.
Infections that can affect fertility include:
- sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- prostatitis, an inflamed prostate
- mumps, which can cause an inflammation of
the testicles known as mumps orchitis
- urinary infections
Certain medications can affect sperm production and
impair fertility. These include:
- testosterone replacement therapy
- anabolic steroid use
- certain antibiotics
- some ulcer drugs (i.e. H2 blockers)
This condition occurs when one or both testicles do not
descend from the abdomen during fetal development. It can interfere with sperm
production and movement.
Hormonal imbalances can affect sperm growth and
maturation. They can also prevent the release of sperm and affect sex drive.
Hormonal problems may begin in the brain or the
testicles. Glands in the brain control hormone production. However, most hormones related to sperm
production are made in the testicles.
Other Causes of Male Infertility
A number of other factors are
also associated with male infertility, including:
Certain genetic conditions can
affect fertility. For example, men with cystic fibrosis may be born without
sperm ducts. Chromosomal diseases can also affect development of the male
Injuries can cause scarring in the sperm
ducts that carry sperm from the testicles. One cause of such scarring is
extended bicycle riding.
Men with retrograde ejaculation ejaculate backward into
their bladders. This condition makes conceiving difficult. Retrograde ejaculation
can be caused by a variety of things, including:
- previous surgeries
- spinal injuries
- certain medications, particularly those
prescribed for enlarged prostate
Spinal cord injuries can also cause
a complete lack of ejaculation. However, men may still make sperm, even if they
do not ejaculate it.
Sexual Intercourse Problems
Concerns about infertility can cause sexual problems
within couples. However, sexual problems can also contribute to infertility by
reducing opportunities to conceive. Such problems include:
- erectile dysfunction
- premature ejaculation
- painful intercourse
- emotional or psychological problems that
interfere with sex
Environmental and Lifestyle Causes
Infertility in men may also have environmental or
lifestyle causes, including:
- heavy metal exposure
- exposure to pesticides
- tobacco use
- alcohol use
- cocaine and marijuana use
- overheating of the testicles
Behaviors that can increase the temperature
of the testicles include:
- frequent use of hot tubs or saunas
- using a laptop computer on your lap
Working with your laptop on a desk
or support can reduce the amount of heat on your testicles. This may be a
simple way for some men to improve their fertility.