What are the causes of male infertility? Trying to conceive when the man has infertility poses new obstacles to overcome. Most people assume that when infertility is an issue – it’s a “female” thing. Quite honestly though, male factor infertility accounts for many of the childless couples.
There are six main conditions that cause male factor infertility. Some can be cured – others can be treated and a few render the male infertile. Treatments and cures come in all forms from fertility drugs to surgery. Men suffering from infertility will be referred to an andrologist – a doctor that specializes in male infertility. In a male fertility work-up a complete physical examination will be given with special attention to the genitalia area. The first test to be performed is a semen analysis. This will count the sperm and judge their motility and viability. Once the analysis is done, the problem, if any, can be addressed.
Most cases of male factor infertility have to do with low sperm count. This can be due to a variety of reasons – infections, varicoceles, and hormonal imbalances. These can be treated medically with medications and procedures to correct the problem.
Damaged Sperm Ducts – Blocked sperm ducts account for 10-15% of all male infertility. Scarring of the vas deferens prevents the sperm from reaching its ultimate destination. This scarring could be caused from a sexually transmitted disease. Or the duct may be blocked from varicoceles. In either case minor surgery can be performed to remove the blockage or scarring.
Varicoceles – This condition is when the spermatic veins dilate and is almost always in the left testicle. This causes blood to flow to the sperm instead of away from. This, of course, kills the sperm. Varicoceles can be corrected through surgery. Usually after surgery the sperm count increases by 80%, thus restoring fertility.
Hormonal Deficiency – This is caused by an erratic release of the hormones FSH and LH – the hormones responsible for sperm production. Hormonal deficiencies are difficult to treat and the chances of maintaining some fertility lie in a marginal sperm count.
Sperm Antibodies – Men, like women who develop antibodies to their own fertilized egg, can develop antibodies to their own sperm. In this case the man’s immune system destroys the sperm as it is being produced. Steroids can be prescribed to suppress the immune system long enough to produce sperm. Or a procedure called sperm washing can be done allowing for some type of artificial insemination.
Testicular Failure – This is a condition in which the hormones are in balance but the testes fail to react appropriately and do not produce sperm. This can be the result of a sexually transmitted disease, illness such as mumps or any physical injury from sports or surgery. There are no known effective treatments for this, unless the sperm count is low. In the case of low sperm count fertility drugs can be given to increase the number of sperm.
Medical technology advances daily and new cures and treatments are found to treat male infertility. Sometimes changes in lifestyle will aid in restoring fertility. These are most of the conditions that constitute male factor infertility. Improving diet, eliminating caffeine and staying away from alcohol, recreational drugs and tobacco can turn infertility into fertility again.
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