What causes infertility in men and what treatments are out there?
What Causes Infertility in Men?
There are several factors that can lead to infertility in men. Learn about possible causes for male infertility and available treatments.
By Krisha McCoy
Medically Reviewed by Cynthia Haines, MD
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It is estimated that between 10 percent and 20 percent of couples are infertile, which means they are unable to conceive after trying for one year or more. And infertility is not just an issue for women; male infertility problems are the cause of roughly one-third of all infertility cases.
Male Infertility: A Variety of Causes
Among the factors that can lead to male infertility are:
- Varicoceles.A tangle of troublesome varicose veins in the scrotum, causing an increase in temperature within the scrotum, is the most common cause of infertility in men. The heat generated by the condition can have a negative effect on the production of sperm, leading to male infertility.
- Blockage.A blockage in any part of the reproductive system that helps deliver sperm, such as the epididymis or vas deferens, can cause infertility.
- Medications.Certain medications, such as anabolic steroids, have been associated with infertility in men.
- Low sperm count.When a man produces too little sperm, it can cause problems with conception.
- Sperm problems.Sometimes sperm are shaped abnormally or move in abnormal ways, which can lead to male infertility.
- Undescended testicle.A testicle that doesn't move down from the abdomen into the scrotum can affect sperm production.
- Medical problems.Some medical conditions, such as kidney failure, can lead to male fertility problems.
- Unknown causes.There are cases of male infertility that can’t be identified, though some are thought to be due to genetic causes.
Male Infertility: Few Symptoms
There are usually no symptoms or warning signs that a man is infertile, notes Ira Sharlip, MD, clinical professor of urology at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine and spokesperson for the American Urological Association.
Men with varicoceles may be aware of a soft mass on the left side of the scrotum. "In rare situations, symptoms of marked hypogonadism may be present, including delayed puberty, low sex drive, decreased body hair, and muscle weakness, among others," says Dr. Sharlip.
Male Infertility: Diagnosis and Treatment
If you and your partner have been trying to conceive for a year (six months if the woman is over age 35) without success, you should consult a doctor. An examination, including an assessment of your medical history, and certain tests will check for problems with male fertility.
A common test for infertility in men is semen analysis, in which a sample of sperm is examined in a laboratory to determine the number and quality of the sperm. Many causes of male infertility can be treated. For instance, blockages in the male reproductive system can often be cleared with minor surgery, and there are procedures to correct varicoceles. In other cases, assisted reproductive techniques such as intrauterine insemination and in vitro fertilization (IVF) may be able to help you and your partner get pregnant.
Video: What causes infertility in men?
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