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What is male infertility?

Infertility can be defined as the inability to conceive even after trying for a course of full one year of time.

According to the research, 10-15 percent married couples in India face infertility. A whopping 27.5 million couples who want to conceive suffer from infertility.

Male infertility is the cause in one-third of couples trying to conceive. About one in 20 men have low numbers of sperm, causing infertility. However, only about one in every 100 men has no sperm at all.

What are the symptoms of male infertility?

In most cases, there are no obvious signs of infertility. In some cases, noticeable signs and symptoms associated with male infertility include:

  • difficulty with ejaculation
  • small volumes of fluid ejaculated
  • reduced sexual desire
  • difficulty maintaining an erection (erectile dysfunction)
  • Pain, swelling or a lump in the testicle area
  • Recurrent respiratory infections
  • Inability to smell
  • Abnormal breast growth (gynecomastia)
  • Decreased facial or body hair or other signs of a chromosomal or hormonal abnormality
  • A lower than normal sperm count (fewer than 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen or a total sperm count of less than 39 million per ejaculate)

What are the causes of male infertility?

There can be many reasons that can be responsible for making a male infertile. These include:

  • a low sperm count or abnormal sperm due to:
  • Varicocele —the most common cause of correctable male infertility, accounting for 38% of cases wherein an abnormal collection of bulging veins occurs above the testicle;
  • Undescended testicle
  • Infections in the testicle (orchitis), the prostate (prostatitis), or elsewhere in the body that causes a fever
  • Chemotherapy for cancer
  • Medicines such as anabolic steroids or anti-seizure medicines
  • Genetic abnormalities, for example, Down syndrome, Klinefelter syndrome
  • Hormone problems
  • Abnormal movement of sperm due to:
  • Retrograde ejaculation semen ejaculating backward into the bladder instead of out the penis. Usually, previous surgery is the cause.
  • Genetically absence of the main sperm pipeline known as the vas deferens.
  • Obstruction anywhere in the plumbing between the testicles and the penis.
  • Anti-sperm antibodies abnormally attacking a man’s own sperm on their way to the egg.

How to diagnose if a male is infertile?

Your doctor will perform the following tests to diagnose if you are infertile:

  • Sperm and semen analysis to assess your sperm count, their shape, movement, and other variables.
  • The physical examination can detect varicocele and give clues to hormone problems.
  • Hormone evaluation
  • Testicular biopsy is done in men with very low or no sperm in their semen.
  • Genetic testing to identify specific obstacles to fertility and problems with sperm.

What increases a man’s risk of infertility?

  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Drugs
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Age
  • Environmental toxins, including pesticides and lead
  • Health problems such as mumps, serious conditions like kidney disease, or hormone problems
  • Medicines
  • Radiation treatment and chemotherapy for cancer

How can male infertility be prevented?

Many types of male infertility aren’t preventable. However, you can avoid some known causes of male infertility. For example:

  • Quit smoking
  • Limit or abstain from alcohol
  • Steer clear of illicit drugs
  • Keep the weight off
  • Not to get a vasectomy done
  • Avoid things that lead to prolonged heating of the testicles
  • Reducing stress
  • Avoiding exposure to pesticides, heavy metals, and other toxins

How can male infertility be treated?

Some common male infertility treatments include:

o  Medicines and surgery to treat hormonal abnormalities.

o  Surgery:

  • To repair varicoceles to block off the abnormal veins.
  • To correct obstructions in the sperm transport plumbing.

For men with very low or abnormal sperm, high tech male infertility treatment called ART or assisted reproductive techniques are available. For this, first sperms are collected either from ejaculated semen or by a needle from the testicles and are then processed and introduced to eggs by different methods. These include:

  • Intrauterine insemination (IUI), wherein, at the time of ovulation, sperms are injected directly up into the uterus.
  • In-vitro fertilization (IVF), wherein, the sperms are mixed with multiple eggs collected from the woman’s body and the fertilized egg is placed in the uterus.
  • Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)-A single sperm is injected through a tiny needle into an egg.

ICSI can be performed when sperm counts are extremely low or abnormal.

When do you need to see a doctor?

Visit CMC, Mohali where we have specialists to look into your matter of infertility if you notice any of the following:

  • Erection or ejaculation problems
  • low sex drive
  • Pain, discomfort, a lump or swelling in the testicle area
  • A history of testicle, prostate or sexual problems
  • A groin, testicle, penis or scrotum surgery