Infertility is a challenge that many couples face. Since about one third of infertility issues are related to problems experienced by the male partner, it’s always a timely topic to discuss a health problem that can be a struggle for many men.
Signs and Symptoms of Male Infertility
The primary indicator of male infertility centers on the inability to conceive a child. While facing the possibility of male infertility may be difficult, one of the most important things to remember is that you are not alone. While many men display no other obvious symptoms, some underlying cause is often to blame. Male infertility can be difficult to diagnose, since the symptoms are not obvious. However, there are certain related conditions that are common, including:
- Issues with sexual function—such as difficulty with ejaculation, lowered sexual desire, or erectile dysfunction
- Pain or swelling in the testicular area
- Persistent respiratory infections
Potential Causes for Male Infertility
There are many potential reasons for male infertility, and they are usually related to two primary issues: the amount of healthy sperm available, and the ability for sperm to travel normally. As such, underlying causes of male infertility may include:
- Sperm disorders—in which there are problems with making and growing sperm. This can be a result of genetic conditions, lifestyle choices, chronic health conditions, childhood infections, chromosomal or hormonal problems, and damage to the reproductive system that causes a blockage.
- Varicoceles—which are swollen veins in the scrotum. When proper drainage of the blood is blocked, normal sperm growth can be harmed.
- Retrograde ejaculation—in which semen travels backward into the bladder instead of being ejaculated through the penis. This condition can be caused by surgery, medications, or abnormalities of the nervous system.
- Immunologic infertility—in which the body makes antibodies that attack the sperm. Such antibodies are most often the result of injury, surgery, or infection.
- Obstruction—in which the sperm is blocked somewhere within the reproductive tract.
- Hormones—which can cause poor sperm growth if levels are low.
- Chromosomes—which are abnormal and therefore affect fertility.
- Medications—that may be used to treat conditions such as arthritis, depression, digestive problems, infections, high blood pressure, and cancer.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Although the approach among providers may vary, diagnosing the presence and cause of male infertility typically involves some combination of the following:
- Sperm and semen analysis—to evaluate the presence and health of the sperm.
- Physical examination—which should ideally be performed by a urologist.
- Hormone evaluation—to determine if a hormone imbalance may be a contributing factor.
- Testicular biopsy—for men with very low or no sperm in their semen.
- Genetic testing—to identify if genetic factors are creating obstacles to fertility.
Treatment options will vary, depending upon the outcome of testing, as well as the treating provider. They may include:
- Surgery to repair structural abnormalities—such as varicoceles and anatomical obstructions.
- Medication—to treat hormonal abnormalities.
- Assisted reproductive techniques (ARTs)—which boost the chances of sperm reaching the egg.
- Lifestyle changes—such as stopping smoking; decreasing alcohol consumption; and avoiding high temperature environments, such as hot tubs.
Since many couples face more than one cause of infertility, a medical evaluation is the best way to determine the cause and discuss treatment options that best suit your needs. We understand that discussing infertility is difficult. That’s why our team is here to help guide you every step of the way. We at Western Michigan Urological Associates want to work with you to find the best options for you and your family. Contact us today.