What are some common causes of male infertility?

What causes male infertility? A lot of times, things are happening at a microscopic level, making it impossible for the average person to figure out on their own. For individuals struggling with infertility, the best thing to do is to talk to their healthcare provider and undergo some fertility testing. Abnormal results might indicate that a man is experiencing any of the following common causes of infertility.

Sperm abnormalities

Most of the time, male infertility is caused by problems with the sperm, like low sperm count, poor sperm movement, or abnormal sperm shape. In many cases, these problems stem from things like risk factors in one’s lifestyle, prolonged exposure to chemicals or medications, infections from STDs, and medical conditions like thyroid disease, diabetes, cancer and chemotherapy, or chronic anemia.

Retrograde ejaculation

Normally when ejaculation occurs, the bladder closes its opening and semen travels out of the penis. But in the case of retrograde ejaculation, the bladder opening stays open during ejaculation, which causes semen to go into the bladder instead of its intended route. This condition is treatable and can happen as a result of certain kinds of surgery, diseases, injuries, medications, and natural aging.

Physical abnormalities

These could be things like damaged sperm ducts, birth defects with the urethra, a varicocele (varicose vein in a testicle), or other abnormalities with the testes. In these cases, the sperm could be perfectly fine, but have no way to successfully leave the body and reach the cervix.

Hormone deficiencies

Hormones like testosterone and gonadotropin-releasing hormones (GnRH) are especially important for fertility. When they’re unbalanced, they can cause problems with sperm or the release of sperm. Some of these are present at birth while others can develop over time; prolonged environmental exposure to chemicals, for instance, can alter someone’s hormones.

Genetic disorders

Genetics play a part in male fertility problems, too. Some conditions, like cystic fibrosis and polycystic kidney disease, can cause sperm to be obstructed and blocked in the body. Klinefelter syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects hormone levels and sperm transport, and Kartagener syndrome is a genetic disorder that can impair sperm movement.

Sometimes male infertility is caused by factors that experts can’t quite pinpoint, and sometimes even though experts know the cause, it can’t be treated. In all of these cases, having an open dialogue with your partner and your provider is crucial. That, as well as a fertility test, will help to better understand the fertility challenges that you and your partner may face.

  • “Infertility in men.” UMM.edu. University of Maryland Medical Center, Dec 17 2012. Web.
  • Robert Cooke-Deegan. “What causes male infertility?” Stanford.edu. Stanford in Washington Seminar and Tutorial: How Decisions Are Made About Health Research and Health Policy, 2003. Web.
  • “What are the causes of male infertility?” NIH. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, July 2 2013. Web.
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