Infertility is common, affecting 1 in every 6 couples trying to conceive. In at least 50% of infertility cases, a male factor is a contributing cause. This indicates that about 10% of males trying to conceive suffer from male infertility.
What is male infertility?
Infertility is a diagnosis given to couples who have been attempting to conceive for a year and have been unsuccessful.
How is male infertility diagnosed?
Most men who have infertility issues have normal sexual function and pass standard medical testing. Male infertility is thus diagnosed with two sperm tests, taken one month apart.
A sperm sample is collected after the patient has not ejaculated for at least 2 days but no more than 5 days. An abnormal sperm sample may reveal:
- No sperm (azoospermia)
- Low sperm count (oligozoospermia)
- Abnormal sperm
- Sperm that does not move as it should
- No ejaculation (aspermia)
If low sperm count is discovered, blood tests to assess hormone levels, such as follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH), testosterone, and prolactin, may be ordered. A high FSH level paired with a low testosterone level indicates testicular failure.
What are signs and symptoms of male infertility?
In most cases, there may be no discernible signs or symptoms of male infertility, making it hard to diagnose. However, in some cases patients may notice the following symptoms:
- Problems with sexual function
- Difficulty ejaculating
- Decreased sexual desire
- Erectile dysfunction
- Pain, swelling, or a lump in the testicles
- Respiratory illnesses
- Abnormal breast enlargement (gynecomastia)
- Reduced face or body hair
Medical treatment may be necessary if you have:
What are risk factors for male infertility?
Although the exact cause of male infertility is often unknown, risk factors include:
- Low sperm production
- Abnormal sperm
- Barrier or obstruction preventing sperm from reaching the egg
- Anatomical problem that affects the reproductive system
- Hormonal imbalance
- Untreated chronic disease, such as diabetes or thyroid disorders
- Autoimmune disorders
- Advanced age
- Excessive drinking
- Illicit drug use
- Extreme temperatures
- Exposure to toxic chemicals
- Certain medications and drugs such as testosterone therapy or steroids
- Cancer treatment
How is male infertility treated?
Treatment for male infertility may include:
- Surgery to correct underlying anatomical conditions that may be causing obstruction
- Antibiotics to treat infections of the reproductive system
- Medications to treat erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation
- Hormone therapies and drugs to correct hormonal imbalances
- Assisted reproductive technology (ART) to extract and inject sperm into the female vaginal canal, either by in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intracytoplasmic sperm injections (ICSI)
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
National Institutes of Health. How common is male infertility, and what are its causes? https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/menshealth/conditioninfo/infertility
University of Utah Health. Male Infertility – It’s More Common Than You Think. https://healthcare.utah.edu/healthfeed/postings/2020/12/male-infertility-more-common-than-you-think.php
Yale Medicine. Male Infertility. https://www.yalemedicine.org/conditions/male-infertility
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