Infertility affects about 1 in every 6 couples. It is diagnosis given when a couple is unable to conceive in over a year. If the problem is in the male partner, it is called male infertility. Most people probably do not know it but male infertility actually accounts for approximately 30% of all infertility cases.
There are four main causes of male infertility:
- Sperm transport disorder (10-20%)
- Gonad disorder (30-40%)
- Hypothalamic or pituitary disorder (1-2%)
- Unknown causes (40-50%)
There is still much to be researched on the topic of male fertility because as you can see, a lot of cases still get a diagnosis with “unknown causes”. Often, male infertility occurs due to sperm abnormality – due to inadequate sperm count or ejaculation problems.
Male fertility may be due to various health issues, as well as certain medical treatments. These include:
- Ejaculation issues – Some men suffer from retrograde ejaculation which occurs when semen is forced back into the bladder instead of coming out of the penis. Health conditions like diabetes, and spinal injuries, as well as surgeries of the prostate, bladder, or urethra, may cause retrograde ejaculation.
- Swollen Veins – Also known as varicocele, this is the most common but reversible cause of fertility in men. Varicocele causes reduced quality of the sperm. Treating it can highly improve sperm count and mobility.
- Anti-Sperm Antibodies – Sometimes, antibodies mistakenly identify sperms as harmful invaders and they work hard to eliminate them.
- Undescended Testicles – In some cases, during fetal development, one or both testicles do not descend from the abdomen into the sac containing the testicles.
- Hormone Imbalance – Infertility may also be caused by an abnormality that is affecting hormonal systems like the hypothalamus, thyroid, pituitary, and adrenal glands. Male hypogonadism and other hormonal issues have various possible underlying causes.
- Infections – Your sperm production and health may be affected by infections, especially when they cause scarring that could block the sperm passage. Some infections include gonorrhoea or HIV, epididymitis, orchitis, and other sexually transmitted infections.
- Tumors – Both non-malignant tumors and cancers can affect male reproductive organs. In other cases, chemotherapy or surgery affects male fertility.
- Defects in Chromosomes – there are inherited disorders like the Klinefelter’s syndrome ( wherein the male is born with two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome instead of one X and one Y chromosomes) that cause abnormalities in the development of the male reproductive organs. Genetic syndromes like cystic fibrosis, Kallmann’s syndrome, and Kartagener’s syndrome are also often associated with infertility.
- Previous Surgeries – Vasectomy, inguinal hernia repairs, testicular and scrotal surgeries, prostate surgeries, and abdominal surgeries for rectal and testicular cancers may prevent men from having sperm in the ejaculate.
- Medications – Long-term anabolic steroid use, as well as intake of cancer medications, ulcer drugs, and certain antifungal medications, may impair one’s sperm production.
Of course, there are also environmental and lifestyle factors that contribute to one’s fertility. For example, exposure to chemicals and radiation, as well as intake of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs can greatly affect a man’s fertility.