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Houston Fertility Journal

    A Brief Dive Into Male Infertility

    March 7, 2017 / by Center of Reproductive Medicine   

    Center of Reproductive Medicine


    A lot of people tend to think of infertility as a woman’s issue. After all, it is the woman who is not getting pregnant. For some reason her body is not accepting the sperm. However, this is not always because of the woman and her reproductive system. “About one out of every three cases of infertility is due to the man alone.” This can be very difficult for a man to hear -- that his sperm isn’t working properly. Infertility is not an easy thing for anyone, no matter who it concerns.

    There are instances when this is something about yourself that you will have to learn to accept, but that is not always the case. There have been advances in male infertility treatment that do offer the potential of providing real help. If you are concerned that you or your partner may be infertile, there are some symptoms that may indicate that this is the case. Your best option is to visit a clinic in order to get the real answers you require. You may be a little hesitant to do so just yet, so let’s take a brief dive into male infertility to give you an idea of what you may be dealing with.

    Common Symptoms

    In most cases, the signs of infertility in men aren’t obvious. Intercourse, erections, and ejaculation usually appear to be normal. The deeper issue is what will determine what the symptoms are, if there are any. These can include:

    • irregular sexual desire
    • changes in hair growth
    • swelling, lumps, or discomfort in the testicles
    • irregular erection and/or ejaculation
    • testicles appear small and firm

    Known Causes

    There are a vast amount of explanations for a male’s infertility. It can be caused by health issues or medical treatments, such as:

    Infections. An infection can affect the way sperm is produced or could cause scarring that makes it hard for the sperm to travel. Examples of this include epididymitis (the inflammation of the epididymis) or orchitis (the inflammation of the testicles). Some sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea or HIV may also have this effect.

    Tumors. Cancer and non-malignant tumors may have a negative effect on the male reproductive system. The treatments in such cases (radiation or chemotherapy) can also affect fertility.

    Ejaculation Dysfunction. Health conditions (such as diabetes and spinal injuries), medication and certain surgeries may cause the semen to enter the bladder when ejaculating rather than exiting out of the penis. This is called retrograde ejaculation.

    Undescended Testicles. Some men’s testicles may have failed to descend from the abdomen and move into the sack that normally holds the testicles when they are in fetal development.

    Hormone Imbalances. Abnormalities in the hormonal systems could result in low testosterone and other hormonal problems.

    Celiac Disease. If one has a gluten intolerance but continues to ingest it, it can cause infertility.

    Medications. Testosterone replacement therapy, chemotherapy and some other medications can impair sperm production.

    Surgery. Hernia repairs, scrotal or testicular surgery, surgery in the abdomen, or surgeries performed for cancers in the reproductive system can all have an effect on the sperm’s health.

    Health and Lifestyle. Drug use, alcohol use, smoking tobacco, emotional stress and being overweight can affect the sperm’s health.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Can you treat infertility with medication?

    Depending on the condition, yes you can. There are medications for low testosterone levels that can return sperm counts to normal or near normal levels.

    Will this be a painful process and will you need surgery?

    Surgery is not always necessary. Most men who do undergo surgery feel back to normal in one or two days.

    Should you bring your spouse to appointments?

    Yes, this is something the two of you should be handling as a couple.

    Seeking Treatment

    Tests that evaluate blood and urine can be done to figure out why you are having troubles conceiving. There are also sperm analysis tests that check a man’s sperm count and health. Your doctor may refer you to an endocrinologist (a doctor who specializes in infertility).

    Before you go to your doctor, make sure to write down any serious illnesses you have had, surgeries, body changes, and questions that you want to ask. Trust your instincts. If your gut is telling you it’s time to see someone, you’re probably right. You may be healthy but it never hurts to get checked. Being aware of what is going on with your body will only help you to make the changes necessary to get closer to your goal.

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    Topics: Male Fertility

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