Male Infertility: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment
by MedPlus Team, February 8, 2022
Male infertility is a reproduction problem in men in which the chances of impregnating a woman become difficult. As a couple, if sexual intercourse for over a year doesn’t make you pregnant, you both might want to get yourselves tested for infertility issues. There are chances that either or both of you are infertile. This incapability can be sad but need not be the end of your world. There are some natural and medical ways to try and turn this around. This article is specifically about male infertility; and will run you through various causes and treatments.
As per WHO, about 13 out of 100 couples are noted to be infertile. They found that 20-30% of males have more infertility issues and contribute 50% in overall cases. We understand that infertility can be difficult but don’t lose hope. Infertility issues don’t mean that you surely can’t become a parent. Some treatments and procedures can increase the chances of conception.
Male Infertility Symptoms
Commonly noted signs and symptoms you may notice include:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Difficulty in ejaculation
- Small volumes of ejaculated fluid
- Pain and swelling in the testicle area
- Recurrent respiratory infections
- A lower sperm count
- Rarely – loss of smell
Male Infertility Causes
Causes of infertility in males could be medical, environmental, health, and lifestyle issues. Let’s see them in a slightly more detailed fashion:
Many health issues and medical treatments can cause male infertility:
A varicocele is an enlargement of the veins draining the testicle. Male infertility with this condition is reversible in most cases. But the exact reason that varicoceles cause infertility is unknown and may be related to abnormal blood flow. It leads to reduced sperm quantity and quality.
Some infections can affect sperm production or induce scarring that prevents sperm from passing through. These include inflammation of epididymis (epididymitis) or testicles (orchitis) and some sexually transmitted infections, including gonorrhea or HIV. Some can cause permanent testicular damage.
Retrograde ejaculation happens when sperm enters the bladder instead of exiting from the tip of the penis during orgasm. Diabetes, spinal injuries, medications, bladder, prostate, and urethra surgeries also cause retrograde ejaculation.
Cancers and other non-malignant tumors affect the male reproductive organs through the glands that release hormones related to reproduction, like the pituitary gland. Sometimes surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy cause infertility in men.
Infertility can be caused by a problem with the testicles or a problem with the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, or adrenal glands.
Inherited disorders like Klinefelter’s syndrome can cause abnormal development of the male reproductive organs. Other genetic syndromes include cystic fibrosis and Kallmann’s syndrome.
Sexual intercourse problems
It includes erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, painful intercourse, anatomical abnormalities such as having a urethral opening beneath the penis (hypospadias), or psychological or relationship problems that interfere with sex.
It is a digestive ailment characterized by a sensitivity to gluten, a wheat protein. The condition may contribute to male infertility. Fertility may improve after adopting a gluten-free diet.
Testosterone replacement treatment, long-term anabolic steroid usage, cancer therapies (chemotherapy), some ulcer meds, some arthritis drugs, and other pharmaceuticals can reduce male fertility.
Some surgeries may prevent you from having sperm in your ejaculate, including vasectomy, scrotal or testicular surgeries, prostate surgeries, and large abdominal surgeries performed for testicular and rectal cancers.
Heat, pollutants, and chemicals can reduce sperm production and function. Some specific causes include:
- Industrial chemicals: More exposure to chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, organic solvents, and painting materials may contribute to lower sperm count.
- Heavy metal exposure: Exposure to lead or other heavy metals also causes infertility.
- Radiation: Radiation exposure can reduce sperm production, though it will often return to normal. Sperm production can be permanently impaired by strong amounts of radiation.
Health, Lifestyle, and Other Causes
Some other causes of male infertility include:
- Drugs: Anabolic steroids, used to increase muscle mass and strength, can cause the testicles to shrink and sperm production to drop. Using cocaine or marijuana may temporarily reduce the number and quality of your sperm.
- Alcohol: Alcohol use lowers testosterone levels, leads to erectile dysfunction, and lowers sperm production. Excessive drinking can induce liver damage, which might cause reproductive issues.
- Weight: Obesity can impair fertility in several ways, including directly affecting sperm themselves as well as causing hormone changes that reduce fertility in men.
- Smoking: Men who smoke may have male infertility To know how smoking leads to infertility.
Also check, other health effects of cigarette smoking.
Male Infertility Diagnosis
Male fertility test is expensive and there are many tests to determine the cause of infertility in men. Also, the infertility issues will be in both the couples, and there could be over one cause of infertility. So, contact your health provider, he will review your health history and a physical exam. Some tests include:
- Semen Analysis: A minimum of 2 semen samples are collected on different days in the semen analysis. Your provider will check various parameters to identify the problem.
- Blood tests: He may use blood tests to check hormone levels and identify other problems.
- Other tests: He will also conduct imaging tests like an ultrasound, which is used to check blood vessels, and structures inside the scrotum.
- Testicular biopsy: If semen analysis shows that you have less sperm count, he will take a small tissue from each testicle and will check the tissue under a microscope.
With modern technology and methods, the number of options has increased for male infertility treatment. Infertility treatments depend on the cause such as:
Hormone treatment to boost sperm count. Here are some foods to naturally increase sperm count.
- Get and maintain a healthy body weight by exercising and eating a healthy diet.
- Stop smoking, and drinking.
- Stop any illegal drug use.
Treatments for Male Infertility include:
- Surgery: Surgically we can correct a varicose vein or an obstructed vas deferens. Prior vasectomies can also be reversed. When there is no sperm in the ejaculate, it can retrieve them directly from the testicles or epididymis by using sperm retrieval techniques.
- Treating infections: Antibiotics may heal a reproductive tract infection, but they may not always restore fertility.
- Treatment for sexual intercourse problems: Medication or counseling can help improve fertility conditions like erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation. For these problems, your provider may suggest prescribing tablets like sildenafil (Viagra 50 mg).
- Hormone treatments and medications: Your doctor may recommend hormone replacement or medications where infertility is caused because of high or low levels of certain hormones or problems.
- Assisted reproductive technology (ART): ART treatments involve getting sperm through normal ejaculation, surgical extraction, or donor individuals, depending on your specific case and wishes. The sperm is subsequently injected into the female genital tract or utilized for IVF or intracytoplasmic sperm injection.
So, by this, you can get a view of infertility issues in men. So, there is no need to worry if you have a male infertility issue. It is a common issue in many people around the world and there are many treatments and medications available to treat this problem.