Male Infertility Treatment
Male infertility is any health condition that decreases a man’s chances of impregnating his female partner. Approximately 10% – 15% of couples in the U.S. can’t conceive when trying. Frequently, infertility is due, in part, to faulty sperm production or function.
Signs and Symptoms
While many times the only symptom of male infertility is the inability to conceive, there may be signs or symptoms of underlying issues, such as a hormonal imbalance or a condition that blocks the passage of sperm.
Any of the following may be present when experiencing male infertility:
- Problems with sexual function (may include difficulty ejaculating, reduced libido, or erectile dysfunction)
- Pain, swelling, or lump in the testicle area
- Recurrent respiratory infections
- Inability to smell
- Abnormal breast growth
- Decreased facial or body hair, or other signs of a chromosomal or hormonal abnormality
- Having a lower than normal sperm count (fewer than 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen or a total sperm count of less than 39 million per ejaculate)
Causes and Risk Factors
Because male infertility is such a complex issue, there are a number of factors that may play a role in causing it.
- Varicocele – Swelling in the veins that drain the testicle, resulting in reduced sperm quality.
- Infection – Some infections, including epididymitis, orchitis, and sexually transmitted diseases, can interfere with sperm production or health.
- Retrograde ejaculation – Semen enters the bladder during orgasm instead of being discharged out of the penis.
- Anti-sperm antibodies – Immune system cells that mistakenly identify sperm as harmful invaders and attempt to eliminate them.
- Tumors – Cancers and nonmalignant tumors can affect the male reproductive organs directly, as can radiation and chemotherapy.
- Undescended testicles – Decreased fertility is common in men whose testicles didn’t descend from the abdomen into the scrotum.
- Hormone imbalances – Any disorder of the hormonal systems can cause low testosterone and other hormonal issues that can decrease sperm production.
- Blockage of tubules – The tubes that carry sperm can be blocked due to injury, infection, or abnormal development.
- Chromosome defects – Inherited disorders, such as Klinefelter syndrome, cystic fibrosis, Kallman syndrome, and Kartagener syndrome, can cause abnormal development and/or function of the male reproductive organs.
- Problems with sexual intercourse – These may include erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, painful intercourse, or anatomical abnormalities.
- Celiac disease – Sensitivity to gluten can contribute to male infertility.
- Industrial chemicals – Extended exposure to benzenes, toluene, xylene, pesticides, herbicides, organic solvents, painting materials, and lead may contribute to low sperm counts.
- Heavy metal exposure – Exposure to lead or other heavy metals may cause infertility.
- Radiation or X-rays – Exposure to radiation can reduce sperm production. With high doses of radiation, sperm production can be permanently reduced.
- Overheating the testicles – Elevated temperatures, like during frequent usage of a hot tub or sauna, may impair sperm production and function.
- Illicit drug use – Use of anabolic steroids, cocaine, or marijuana can reduce the quality and quantity of viable sperm.
- Alcohol use – Excessive drinking can lower testosterone levels, cause erectile dysfunction, and decrease sperm production.
- Tobacco smoking – Men who smoke may have a lower sperm count than nonsmokers.
- Emotional stress – Stress can interfere with certain hormones needed to produce sperm. Unfortunately, the stress associated with failure to conceive can make conception even more difficult.
- Weight – Obesity can impair fertility by reducing the quality of sperm and by causing hormone changes that lead to infertility.
After tests verify that the inability to conceive is due to male infertility issues, there are several treatments and procedures your doctor may recommend to promote conception.
Treatments for male infertility include:
- Surgery, such as removal of obstructions and sperm retrieval procedures
- Antibiotic treatment of infections
- Medication and/or counseling for sexual problems, such as erectile dysfunction
- Hormone replacement or medication
- Assisted reproductive technology (ART), which obtains sperm outside of sexual intercourse and then inserts the sperm into the female genital tract
If you and your partner are experiencing male infertility, the Urology specialists at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic in Houston can help determine the cause of the problem and recommend treatment and guidance to improve chances of conception.