Male infertility is mainly attributed to factors such as low sperm production, abnormal sperm function or blockages that prevent the delivery of sperm. Illnesses, injuries, chronic health problems, lifestyle choices and other factors have a role to play in causes of male infertility factors.
The sign of male infertility is the prolonged inability to conceive a child, despite of absence of female infertility factors. In few cases, underlying problems such as an inherited disorders, hormonal imbalances, dilated veins around the testicles, or conditions that blocks the passage of sperm are causes signs and symptoms observed in male infertility factor.
Inability to conceive a child is the main symptom of male infertility factor, although there are several other symptoms one does not notice. Signs and symptoms associated with male infertility include:
• Problems with sexual functions like difficulty in ejaculation or low volumes of fluid ejaculated, reduction in sexual desire or difficulty in maintaining an erection (erectile dysfunction)
• Pain and/ or swelling or a lump in the testicle area
• Recurring respiratory infections
• Abnormal growth of male breasts (gynecomastia)
• Decreased facial or body hair or other such signs of a chromosomal or hormonal abnormality
• Lower than normal sperm count
Produce Healthy Sperm. Initial stages involve the growth and formation of the male reproductive organs during puberty stage. One of the testicles must be functioning correctly, and your body should be able to produce testosterone and other hormones to trigger and maintain sperm production.
• Sperm to be carried into the semen.
Once sperms are produced in testicles, delicate tubes transport them until they mix with semen and are ejaculated out of penis. This process should be happening without obstruction in tubes.
• There needs to be enough sperm in the semen.
If the count of sperm in your semen (sperm count) is low, it decreases the probability of fertilization of female’s egg. A low sperm count is a count lower than 15 million sperms per milli-liter of semen or lower than 40 million per ejaculate.
• Sperm Motility or ability of sperm to move.
If the movement (motility) or function of your sperm is abnormal, the sperm may not be able to reach or penetrate your partner’s egg.
Problems in male fertility are caused by a number of health issues and medical treatments. Some of these include:
A varicocele is a swelling of the veins that drain the testicles. It’s the most common reversible cause resulting in male infertility. Although the exact reason for that varicoceles causes infertility is unknown, it can be related to abnormal regulation of testicular temperature. Varicoceles deplete the quality of the sperm.
Treating the varicocele can improve sperm quantity and quality, and drastically improves outcome when combined in ART techniques such as IVF/ICSI.
Few infections can interfere with sperm production or sperm health or can cause scars that block the passage of sperm. These infections include inflammation of the epididymis (epididymitis) or testicles (orchitis) and some sexually transmitted infections, including Gonorrhea or HIV. Although certain infections may result in permanent testicular damage, most often than not sperms can still be retrieved by a following a proper and accurate protocol.
• Ejaculation issues.
Retrograde ejaculation is a condition when semen enters the bladder during orgasm instead of emerging out the tip of the penis. Many health conditions can be a factor to cause retrograde ejaculation, which includes diabetes, spinal injuries, medications, and surgery of the bladder, prostate or urethra. Few Males with spinal cord injuries or certain diseases can’t ejaculate semen, even though they produce sperm. In most of these cases, sperm can still be retrieved for use in ART techniques.
• Antibodies that attack sperm.
In few males there are anti-sperm antibodies which are immune system cells that mistakenly identify sperm as harmful invaders and try to eliminate them.
Cancers and non-malignant tumors affect male reproductive organs directly, through the glands that release hormones related to reproduction, such as the pituitary gland, or through several other causes. In these cases, treatments such as surgery, radiation or chemotherapy to treat tumors also casts its effects on male fertility.
• Undescended testicles.
In some men, in the process of fetal development, one or both testicles fail to descend from the abdomen into the sac that normally contains the testicles (scrotum). Occurrence of Male Infertility Factor is more likely in men who have had this condition.
• Hormone imbalances.
Infertility can also result from disorders of the testicles themselves or an abnormality affecting other hormone systems including the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid and adrenal glands. Low testosterone levels and other hormonal problems have a number of possible underlying causes in Male Infertility Factor.
• Defects of tubules that transport sperm.
Sperm travels through many different miniscule tubes. These can be blocked due to various causes, including resulting injury from a surgery, prior infections, trauma or abnormal development, such as with cystic fibrosis or similar inherited conditions.
Such blockages occur at any level, including within the testicles, in the tubes that drain the testicles, in the epididymis, in the vas deferens, near the ejaculatory ducts or in the urethra.
• Chromosome defects.
Disorders such as Klinefelter’s syndrome — in which a male is born with two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome (instead of one X and one Y) — cause abnormal development of the male reproductive organs. Other genetic syndromes associated with infertility include cystic fibrosis, Kallmann’s syndrome and Kartagener’s syndrome.
• Problems with sexual intercourse.
These include problems such as trouble keeping or maintaining an erection during sex (erectile dysfunction), premature ejaculation, pain during intercourse, anatomical abnormalities such as having a urethral opening beneath the penis (hypospadias), or psychological or relationship problems that interfere with sex.
• Celiac disease.
A digestive disorder caused by sensitivity to gluten, celiac disease can be a source of male infertility factor. In such cases, fertility improves after adopting a gluten-free diet.
Testosterone replacement therapy, long-term anabolic steroid use, cancer medications (chemotherapy), certain antifungal medications, some ulcer drugs and certain other medications can harm sperm production and hence causes decreased male fertility.
• Prior surgeries.
Few surgeries may prevent you from having sperm in your ejaculate, including vasectomy, inguinal hernia repairs, scrotal or testicular surgeries, prostate surgeries, and large abdominal surgeries performed for testicular and rectal cancers, among others. In most cases, surgery can be performed to either reverse these blockage or to retrieve sperm directly from the epididymis and testicles.
Overexposure to environmental elements such as heat, toxins and chemicals can also reduce sperm production or cause decreased sperm function. Specific causes include:
• Exposure to Industrial chemicals such as benzenes, toluene, xylene, pesticides, herbicides, organic solvents, painting materials and lead may lead to low sperm counts.
• Exposure to lead or other heavy metals also may be the basis of infertility factor.
• Prolonged Exposure to radiation causes reduced sperm production, though it often eventually returns to normal. Prolonged radiation with high doses, causes sperm production to be permanently reduced.
• Overheating of the testicle area or increased temperatures adversely impact sperm production and function.
• Sitting for long periods, wearing tight clothing or working on a laptop computer for long stretch of time may result in increase in the temperature in your scrotum and may reduce sperm production.
Health, lifestyle and other causes
Some other causes of male infertility include:
• Usage of Steroids to stimulate muscle strength and growth causes the testicles to shrink and sperm production to decrease.
• Using cocaine or marijuana temporarily reduces the number and quality of your sperm as well.
• Drinking alcohol can lower testosterone levels, cause erectile dysfunction and decrease sperm production. Liver disease caused by excessive drinking also may lead to fertility problems.
• Men who smoke have a lower sperm count than do those who don’t smoke.
• Stress interferes with certain hormones needed to produce sperm. Severe or prolonged emotional stress, including problems with fertility, affects your sperm count.
• In several ways, Obesity impairs fertility, including a direct impact on sperm themselves as well as by causing hormonal changes that causes reduction in male fertility.
Occupations such as welding or those involving prolonged sitting, such as truck driving, may be associated with a risk of infertility. However, the research to support these links is mixed.
Major Risk factors to watch out for Male Infertility.
• Alcohol or Tobacco Consumption
• Consumption of certain illicit drugs
• Prolonged history of infection or frequent occurances
• Exposure to toxins
• Overheating in the testicle area
• Having experienced trauma around the testicles
• Having a prior vasectomy or major abdominal or pelvic surgery
• History of undescended testicles
• Born with a fertility disorder or having a blood relative with a fertility disorder
• Having medical conditions, including tumors and chronic illnesses, such as sickle cell disease
• Consuming certain medications or undergoing medical treatments, such as surgery or radiation used for treating cancer.
Many underlying causes of male infertility aren’t preventable. However, one can avoid some known causes of male infertility such as:
• Don’t smoke.
• Limit or abstain from alcohol.
• Steer clear of illicit drugs.
• Keep the weight off.
• Don’t get a vasectomy.
• Avoid things that lead to prolonged heat for the testicles.
• Reduce stress.
• Avoid exposure to pesticides, heavy metals and other toxins
• Maintain a healthy lifestyle and exercise regimen