A Primer to Male Infertility

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8:14 am April 18, 2012

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Out of the more than 7.3 million reported cases of infertility, one-third of these are male infertility cases alone and another one-third are cases of female infertility. The rest are a combination of the two. This means that conception difficulties are not the concern of women alone. Male infertility is also a problem that has to be addressed by at least two-thirds of couples who want to have a baby.

Symptoms of Male Infertility

There are no obvious signs of male infertility except for the inability to have a child after at least one year of trying, or six months for couples who are 35 years old or more. However, there are times when there are signs that are caused by the hormonal imbalances in men. These may include sexual dysfunction, decreased body or facial hair, and pain or swelling in the testicles.

Causes of Male Infertility

There are several causes of male infertility. We can divide these into three categories: medical, environmental, and lifestyle.

1.    Medical Causes.The most common medical cause of male infertility is varicoceles, swelling veins in the testicles that keep the testes warm and produce abnormal sperms. Sexually-transmitted diseases (STD) such as Chlamydia and gonorrhea also cause inflammations and blockages in the reproductive system that prevent ejaculation. Retrograde ejaculation is also a common cause of male infertility. It happens when, instead of going to the tip of the penis, the semen draws back to the bladder.

2.    Environmental Causes.Exposure to harmful substances, especially chemicals and toxins like pesticides, heavy metals, and radiation, can severely impair sperm count, motility, and volume. Spending too much time in saunas and hot tubs and placing laptops on your lap also heats up the testicles too much. Research has also shown that too much biking puts a lot of pressure on the testicles and can numb them down, leading to erectile dysfunction.

3.    Lifestyle Causes.Bad habits, especially the use of drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes, increase the risk for male infertility. Cocaine and marijuana can temporarily reduce sperm count, while anabolic steroids actually cause the testicles to shrink. Excessive alcohol reduces testosterone levels and impairs liver functions that can also affect fertility. Other factors such as weight, stress, and diet also weigh in on the equation.

Diagnosis of Male Infertility

A urologist is the specialist you turn to if you suspect that you cannot produce decent sperm cells for conception. The examination begins with an interview regarding your medical history. If you’ve had other health problems in the past or have undergone surgical treatments that may have affected your sperm’s health, now is the time to tell your doctor. This is followed by a physical exam where the doctor checks the size, shape, and appearance of the testicles for abnormalities. Next, you will have to provide a semen sample for medical analysis. This is the last step in diagnosing male infertility.

Treatments for Male Infertility

Various treatments are used for various problems. The most common, however, is surgery since most cases of infertility in males is caused by the presence of varicoceles. In other cases, they are given hormone medications to supplement the need for more testosterone. Infections are also addressed by the use of antibiotics.

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