Male infertility : An overview of the causes

  • By Sahana Rajan

Why men shy away from infertility tests? However, it is ideal for both the man and woman of a relationship to get infertility tests done. This would not only avoid unnecessary tests and expenditure later and could also result in prompt medical treatment of the problem.

Following an appointment with a urologist/andrologist, the patient is instructed to provide a semen sample for analysis of the quantity and quality of the sperms in the semen. An additional semen test might be recommended for confirmation of the initial results. The semen analysis is an effective method of knowing what is going wrong in the reproductive system :

  1. No-sperm count (azoospermia) - Absence of production of sperms or the non-appearance of sperms in the semen.
  2. Sperm Morphology Issues - Issues related to the structure and form of the sperm.
  3. Low-Semen Production (oligospermia) - Production of low amount of sperms.
  4. Sperm Motility Problems - Abnormal movement of sperms resulting in incapacity to fertilize egg.

Did you know that use of laptops placed on your thighs can result in increase of scrotal temperature? This could lead to abnormality with sperm production. Thus, using laptops is best when they are located on table or desks, away from constant contact with your genital region.

There could also be a primary medical condition, the symptom of which could be manifested reproductively. The physician will suggest blood and urine tests, among others, for the same.

There can be 10 major causes of male infertility :

  1. Semen : Semen refers to the ejaculated fluid containing sperms during sexual intercourse. There could be low or no count of sperm. It is also possible that the mobility of sperm is restricted.
  2. Sterilization : The cutting and sealing off the vas deferens (the tubes which carry the sperms from testicles to the semen) ensuring that your semen does not contain sperms is known as vasectomy. Though this process can be reversed, they are mostly not fruitful.
  3. Lack of sperms : Even though the testicles are producing quality sperms, it is possible that they do not reach the semen. The lack of sperms in the semen is medically known as obstructive azoospermia. Such a condition could be caused due to the blocking in one of the constitutive tubes of the reproductive system. This could be further resulting from an infection or a previous surgery.
  4. Ejaculation issues : Some men might find it challenging to ejaculate normally due to retrograde (ejaculation of semen into bladder) or premature (ejaculation in very short period of sexual activity) ejaculation.
  5. Medicine and drugs : Certain medications have been found to catalyze the onset of infertility. These include sulfasalazine, chemotherapy, anabolic steroids, and herbal remedies (for instance, the consumption of root derivates of Tripterygium wilfordii). The quality of semen can also be negatively affected by illegal drugs like cocaine and marijuana.
  6. Testicles : The function of production and storage of the semen lies with the testicles. In case of injury to them, the quality of the semen could be negatively affected. Causes of injury to testicles include a congenital defect, testicular infection, physical trauma, testicular surgery or cancer and undescended testicles (case where one or both of the testicles do not descend into the scrotum).
  7. Hypogonadism : This refers to the presence of a very low level of testosterone (male sexual hormone) which plays a major role in production of sperms. This could be due to tumors, Klinefelter’s syndrome, or consumption of illegal drugs.
  8. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) : A series of sexually transmitted illnesses can result in male infertility, for example, chlamydia.
  9. Alcohol and weight : Consumption of over 3 to 4 units of alcohol per day can result in infertility in men. Both men and women are affected adversely due to obesity.
  10. Occupational factors and stress : Contact with certain types of pesticides, solvents, and metals can result in deterioration of sperm quality. Stress has also been associated with the loss of sexual drive resulting in lesser instances of sexual intercourse. Moreover, in case of severe stress, sperm production can be unfavorably affected.