Male Infertility

Male Infertility

by Alex Hirsch (SU)

One of the obstacles couples can face is infertility, the inability to conceive a child. It is estimated to affect around 15% of couples. Male infertility is when the problem is with the male partner, which happens about 40% of the time. Male infertility can be a tricky condition to diagnose and treat, and in many cases, the causes are difficult to determine.

However, there are also many medical interventions available that can help couples conceive despite fertility problems. Understanding more about the causes and mechanisms of male infertility can help ensure you receive the proper treatment.

Low Sperm Count, Abnormal Function

The male reproductive system is a complex organization of several organs. Spurred by hormones from the pituitary gland in the brain, the testicles produce sperm cells stored for later usage. During an orgasm, there is the placement of sperm through the tube-like vas deferens before being combined with secretions from the seminal vesicles and prostate. Penile contractions then propel the resulting semen out of the body. 

Male infertility manifests in two ways: there may be low sperm counts in semen, or the sperm might function abnormally. If there are too few sperm cells, then conception becomes unlikely as not enough sperm will survive the journey toward the egg. If the sperm cells show low activity or behave abnormally, they will get lost within the female reproductive tract and die before fertilizing the egg cell.

A Wealth of Potential Causes

The cause of male infertility typically affects either the production of sperm or the conveyance of sperm out of the body. Genetic disorders affecting the sex chromosome can lead to abnormalities in hormone regulation as well as testicle structure, both of which lead to lower quality sperm.

Environmental causes, such as exposure to heavy metals, organic compounds, and radiation, can lead to lower fertility by damaging the cells involved in sperm production. Having the testes exposed to high temperatures, such as by wearing tight-fitting underwear, can also impede sperm development, which usually occurs at temperatures below body temperature. 

Undescended testes can also lead to infertility due to the testes exposed to higher temperatures. Varicoceles, which are varicose veins affecting the testicular veins, can also lead to tissue damage and lower sperm production.

Obesity has also been implicated with male infertility due to its effects on hormone levels. 

As for causes affecting sperm transport, one of the most common is retrograde ejaculation, where the semen flows backward, into the bladder. Impotence, the inability to achieve or maintain an erection can impede sexual intercourse. Damage to the vas deferens and urethra, which can arise from infection or physical trauma, can block sperm flow. Finally, spinal cord damage can prevent ejaculation reflex from occurring correctly.

Treating Male Infertility 

Male infertility has numerous potential causes that can make it difficult to accurately diagnosis and treat. If you suspect infertility, work with a medical professional who has the education and experience to determine and properly treat what is causing your condition. 

For patients living in the Phoenix area, contact Dr. Desiderio Avila Jr. at Ironwood Urology, who specializes in male reproductive disorders. Call (480) 961-2323 or request an appointment now.