Male Infertility

What is Male Infertility?

When a male is unable to impregnate an otherwise fertile female, he is considered infertile. About 30-50% of all infertility issues are due to male infertility. Duct blockages, deformed or weak sperm, hormonal imbalances, damage to the testicles, secondary diseases, and lifestyle choices such as smoking, recreational drugs, alcohol abuse, sedentary life or overly intense exercise, poor diet, stress can all lead to temporary or permanent infertility in men.

What are the Symptoms of Male Infertility?

For most men, the main symptom of infertility is difficulty impregnating their female partner. Other symptoms are generally only caused by an underlying cause, such as a disease or damage to the testicles.

Secondary symptoms may include

  • Pain, tenderness, and swelling in the testicles
  • Trouble getting or maintaining an erection
  • Semen appearing in the urine due to retrograde ejaculation
  • Lack of body hair due to reduced testosterone levels
  • Little to no ejaculation during orgasm
  • Breast growth

Reduced sexual desire can be a symptom of male infertility, but it is also often caused by receiving the diagnosis due to the psychological effects of having trouble conceiving. Male infertility is diagnosed through testing of the semen and sperm, imaging to examine the internal structures, and biopsies if cancer is suspected.

Male Infertility Causes

Male infertility has multiple causes – from physical causes, to hormonal imbalance, to behavioral and, at times, psychological problems. Fertility is a reflection of a man’s “overall” health. Here are some of the lifestyle/behavioral choices that can negatively affect your fertility: prolonged smoking, especially of marijuana, chronic alcohol and hard drug abuse, use of anabolic steroids, malnutrition and excessive stress.

Male infertility can also be caused by hormonal disorders. The hypothalamus-pituitary endocrine system is responsible for regulating a chain of hormonal activities that enable the testicles to efficiently produce and disseminate sperm. However, several things can go wrong with the hypothalamus-pituitary endocrine system. For instance, the pituitary can fail to produce adequate lutenizing hormone (LH) as well as the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). Other hormonal disorders that can cause male infertility include hypothyroidism, hyperprolactinemia, panhypopituitafism, congenital adrenal hyperplasia and hypogonadotropic hypopituitarism.

A variety of physical problems can cause male infertility. These problems can either disrupt sperm production or interfere with the pathway through which sperm travels from the testes to the penis for ejaculation. Some of the physical problems that can cause male infertility include variocoele, damaged sperm ducts, accidental vasectomy, and torsion.

Psychological and behavioral problems have also been linked with male infertility. Other common causes of male infertility include infections and diseases such as typhoid, mumps, brucellosis, syphilis, and tuberculosis.

How is Male Infertility Treated?

Surgeries are available to correct blocked or malformed ducts. Men who don’t produce enough sperm can take fertility medication to boost production, but it is harder to encourage weak sperm that have a low motility.

Men that don’t respond well to surgery or medication often turn to fertilization options for their female partners that inject the sperm into the uterus or directly into the egg. Many men only need to change a few habits, like switching to looser underwear and spending less time in the hot tub, to boost their fertility levels.

Male Infertility Prevention

The first step towards preventing male infertility involves protection against STIs like chlamydia and syphilis that cause irreparable damage to the reproductive tract. Next, quit smoking, drinking and substance abuse.

Sleep is recommended as a preventive measure against everything, from depression and obesity to infertility. According to a study conducted by University of Southern Denmark, men who lack sleep suffer from low testosterone levels, low sperm count and smaller testicular size.

A man’s diet plays a significant role in his fertility levels. Incorporating a lot of fruits and vegetables in your diet can greatly boost your sperm quality. The opposite is true of processed meats and bacon. Other infertility prevention strategies include regular exercises, stress and anxiety management, treatment of underlying medical conditions and weight management.

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Last Reviewed:
October 07, 2016
Last Updated:
March 02, 2018