Causes of male infertility are complex
Male fertility depends on a complex interplay of hormones, sperm production, and the ability of sperm to get to the egg and penetrate it. Causes of male infertility can affect sperm at any stage of this journey, and while some causes can be improved with treatment and lifestyle changes, others can only be overcome with the help of assisted reproductive technology.
To create the most effective treatment plan for each couple, our Nevada infertility specialists typically begin with a comprehensive fertility workup for both the male and female partner.
Finding the causes of male infertility
For men, fertility testing begins with a comprehensive semen analysis, which can often indicate the causes of male infertility.
- Not enough sperm, or low sperm count
- Sperm that are unable to move normally, or poor motility
- Sperm that are not shaped normally, or poor morphology
Low sperm count can be caused by an inability to produce sperm, which in some men has a genetic basis. Men with a family history of infertility are at higher risk, as are men with certain chronic illnesses, prior injuries to the testicles or infection.
Another of the common causes of male infertility is a varicocele, which is an enlarged varicose vein in the testicles that causes blood to pool and temperature to rise, affecting sperm production. About 40% of infertile men have a varicocele.
Certain other risk factors may be related to low sperm count, including having undescended testicles as a child or a history of cancer, chemotherapy, or exposure to radiation or toxins. Prostate and hormone problems can also affect sperm, as can prolonged exposure to heat sources, such as saunas, hot tubs or high fevers.
Some men may have plenty of sperm, but were born with birth defects, such as the absence of the vas deferens, that prevent the flow of sperm from the testicles. Others suffer trauma to the reproductive organs, or have infections or surgery that can cause scarring and tubal obstructions later in life. In some men, sperm flow into the bladder during ejaculation, a condition called retrograde ejaculation. About 10% to 15% of men have azoospermia, or a complete absence of sperm in the semen.
Research has associated poor sperm quality with DNA fragmentation, which occurs with aging. Smoking, substance abuse, toxin exposure and certain sexually transmitted diseases have all been linked to changes in sperm function.
For about half of infertile men, testing does not reveal the causes of male infertility, and the condition remains unexplained. Thankfully, assisted reproductive technology such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) can help even men with severe male factor infertility father a child.
Get tested, get treated
To learn more about the causes of male infertility and begin the testing process, which includes blood tests to examine hormone levels and semen analysis, contact us to schedule a consultation with our Nevada infertility specialists.