Male Infertility OverviewAround 10% of people worldwide are struggling with an inability to conceive. Although, it is usually believed that only women are affected by problem of infertility, men too can suffer from it. In fact, in about one-third of infertile couples the cause lies in male factor alone. Male infertility is an inability to produce healthy sperm. Couples who are failing to get pregnant after at least one year of unprotected intercourse are considered infertile and evaluation of the male factor should be initially performed to identify the cause of the problem.
Causes of Male Infertility
Male infertility is often caused by physical abnormality such as varicocele, the condition featured by swelling of the veins around the testes, which hampers sperm production. Other medical conditions that can cause infertility in men are diabetic neuropathy, extreme obesity and testicular torsion.
Diseases like genital infections and infections of the reproductive organs as well as systemic diseases such as renal failure, liver disease and sickle cell disease can also lead to male infertility. Hormone disorders and trauma to the testicles can be responsible for male fertility issues as well.
Lifestyle and environmental factors can contribute to male infertility. This includes smoking, exposure to toxins, excessive exercise, use of certain medications such as anabolic steroids, use of illicit drugs, wearing of tight clothes and prolonged sitting, excessive alcohol consumption, radiation therapy and diet low in folic acid.
Evaluation of Male Infertility
Initial diagnostic test in evaluating male infertility is semen analysis that measures sperm count and sperm quality. This analysis requires a sample of semen obtained after abstaining from ejaculation for 2 to 7 days. The specimen is commonly produced at home by masturbating into a sterile container. Semen analysis must be performed within one hour after the specimen is collected. Semen analysis involves evaluation of factors such as: volume, concentration, motility and progression.
Male infertility can also be diagnosed with the help of another test called post-coital test (PCT). This test evaluates presence and motility of sperm in a woman’s cervical mucus after intercourse. Post-coital test is done while the woman is ovulating.
Treatment for Male Infertility
There are different treatment options for male infertility depending on the exact cause of the problem. For example, infertility due to erectile dysfunction is usually treated by counseling while hormone disorders are treated with drugs.
Male infertility can be treated with:Hormone therapyHealthy nutrition and moderate exercisingMedications like Cialis and ViagraWearing loose-fitting underwearCounseling, medication or a surgery for erectile dysfunctionIn case these treatments for male infertility fail, couples may consider artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization. Also, couples may use donor sperm for insemination or intracytoplasmic sperm injection in which sperm is injected into an egg obtained from in vitro fertilization.