Infertility is never an easy or comfortable topic to bring up in conversation. However, male infertility may be more common than you think. It has been estimated that infertility affects 15% of couples around the world and that male infertility specifically is found to be solely responsible for 20-30% of infertility cases and contributes to 50% of cases overall.
Infertility as a whole is defined by the inability to conceive after one year of unprotected sex. This definition of infertility can be used for both males and females. Here at Alliance Urology, with the prevalence of this condition as high as it is, it’s important to learn more about what you need to know when it comes to male infertility.
How Is Male Infertility Diagnosed?
There are a couple of different ways that male infertility can be evaluated. One option is your general physical examination, which includes an examination of the genitals and a discussion of sexual history, chronic medical conditions, and any inherited conditions that may affect your fertility. A more specific evaluation includes semen analysis in which the number and health of sperm is evaluated. If additional examinations become necessary, your doctor may recommend one of the following tests:
- Scrotal ultrasound
This test uses high-frequency sound waves that produce images and can identify any problems in the testicles or surrounding structures.
- Hormone testing
A blood test measures the levels of testosterone and other hormones that play an important role in sexual development and sperm production. This test will help to see if hormonal abnormalities are a contributing factor in male infertility. One common cause of infertility is actually too much testosterone!
- Post-ejaculation urinalysis
This test is used to examine the urine for sperm. If sperm is found in the urine, then this can indicate retrograde ejaculation, a condition where the sperm travels backward toward the bladder instead of out of the penis during ejaculation.
- Genetic tests
Blood tests can help identify any signs of genetic abnormalities in the Y chromosomes that may contribute to an extremely low sperm count.
- Testicular biopsy
The results of a testicular biopsy can show whether or not a sperm count is normal and can help decipher if infertility is more likely caused by a problem with sperm transport rather than sperm count itself.
When Should I Be Tested?
Testing for infertility becomes necessary when you are unable to conceive a child after one year of regular, unprotected sex. A visit to your doctor may also be necessary if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Problems getting or maintaining an erection, if you have problems ejaculating, and/or you have a low sex drive.
- If you have any pain, swelling, or a lump in your testicles or the surrounding area.
- If you’ve had any surgeries in the groin area.
- You have a history of prostate, testicle, or sexual problems.
What Causes Male Infertility?
There are a wide variety of factors that can affect or cause male infertility. Certain medical conditions, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices can all contribute to male infertility. To best pinpoint specific causes of infertility, it’s best to speak with a doctor, but some of the most common causes of male infertility include:
- Medical Conditions
Certain medical conditions and medications can impact male infertility. Testing can help identify some of these medical conditions, such as chromosome defects, tumors, hormone imbalances, and ejaculation issues, including blockages, undescended testicles, and varicoceles.
- Environmental Factors
Heavy metal exposure, high doses of radiation, and some industrial chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, and painting materials may all contribute to a lower sperm count.
- Health and Lifestyle Choices
What you choose to put in your body can have an impact on your fertility. Drug use, specifically, steroid use, can lead to a decreased size of the testicles and decreased sperm production. In addition to drug use, excess alcohol and even tobacco use can lead to decreased sperm production. Other lifestyle factors include emotional stress, depression, and obesity.
What Treatments Are Available?
Depending on the underlying cause of infertility, there is an array of treatment options available. If the root of the problem is related to a hormone imbalance, a hormonal intervention can balance the reproductive hormones and optimize sperm production. If the problems with fertility stem from a genetic or anatomical issue, surgical procedures can help extract healthy sperm to use for in-vitro fertilization. If male infertility is caused by a blockage within the sperm transport tubes, or by a varicocele, minimally invasive surgeries can correct the issue.
If you feel that you may be experiencing male infertility, reach out to one of our providers. You can learn more information or schedule an appointment by calling Alliance Urology Specialists in Greensboro at (336) 274-1114.