Causes of Male Infertility
Common Causes of Male Factor Infertility
Potential causes of male infertility include environmental, lifestyle, endocrine (hormonal), and physical factors that may influence the production, quality, or transfer of sperm. Once these factors are identified, they are usually relatively easy to address and correct.
An environmental factor generally refers to exposure to harmful chemicals in the workplace. Lifestyle issues may include such things as poor diet, regular heavy consumption of alcohol (more than one or two drinks in a 24 hour period), use of tobacco or illicit drugs, or frequent use of hot tubs or saunas. All of these are known to negatively affect the production and quality of sperm. If one or a combination of these factors is found to be the reason for infertility, we can reverse the problem by helping you to take the steps to remove the factor that is causing it.
Although not as common as other problems, a hormonal imbalance is another potential cause of male infertility that we consider at our Roseville practice in Northern California. Because hormones control not only the production and maturation of sperm, but also the sex drive, hormone levels that are too high or too low can make it very difficult to conceive. In some cases, hormones may be regulated through medication. In others, if the source of the hormonal imbalance can be identified and corrected, the problem will disappear.
Physical problems can also cause male infertility. Physical complications include blockages in the seminal tract, varicocele (an enlargement of certain veins which increases heat and reduces sperm production), and any genetic or medical condition that prevents sperm from being produced or delivered normally. Although physical problems are typically more complex and varied than other causes of male infertility, medical technology has made it possible to treat or overcome almost all of physical impediments through either medication, surgery, or assisted reproductive technologies.
Identifying Male Infertility
An assessment of male infertility generally involves a complete physical exam with a review of the patient's full medical history, a semen analysis, and sometimes hormonal evaluations. In order to get an accurate assessment, the semen analysis or hormonal tests may need to be done as many as three or more times, over a period of two or three weeks. This is because normal fluctuations can occur that may skew results and lead to an inaccurate diagnosis if only one sample is taken.
During the physical examination, the genitals will be examined for signs of swelling, tenderness, or abnormalities. The doctor will also assess the patient’s overall health and discuss personal and family medical history. It is extremely important to be honest and thorough during this discussion in order to be sure that any and all potential causes of infertility are identified.
The semen analysis will address the volume of ejaculate, concentration (number) of sperm cells, and the level of normal sperm motility (movement) and morphology (shape). The information gathered during this analysis will supply important clues as to the degree and source of male infertility problems.
If you are having trouble getting pregnant, you must realize that many different factors can inhibit fertility and that the majority of them are entirely reversible or treatable. This page describes some of the common causes of infertility problems and how they are addressed at our Sacramento-area practice.
In order to determine the cause of infertility, physicians must be able to identify whether there is a problem with the sperm or with the egg, if there is something preventing the two from coming together, and if there is anything inhibiting implantation and development of a resulting embryo. It is not uncommon for more than one factor to be present, which is why a full range of tests is usually performed, even if one factor has already been identified.
Problems with Sperm
A semen analysis determines the concentration (number) of sperm, as well as their motility (movement) and morphology (shape). Abnormalities in any of these may indicate a problem. Hormonal imbalances, environmental factors, and certain medical conditions can result in male infertility problems. Most of these can be reversed.
Regardless of the causes of infertility problems in men, our Sacramento-area practice has the technology to overcome almost any degree of sperm-based obstacle to pregnancy. In Vitro fertilization and ICSI offer the possibility of fatherhood to men who would once have had no chance of being able to have children.
Obstacles to Fertilization
Many of the causes of infertility problems we treat at our Sacramento-area practice are obstacles that prevent fertilization. These causes include any physical problem that interrupts the normal path of eggs or sperm, as well as any condition that prevents the release of otherwise healthy eggs or sperm. Almost all of these problems and conditions can be overcome through IVF, although many do not require such an invasive treatment and can be treated with a simple surgical procedure or medical therapy.