Overview, Symptoms, Causes & Risk Factors of Male Infertility
Male fertility is the function of a man’s body making normal sperm and delivering them into the female reproductive system to achieve fertilization. Any challenge in being able to either create, deliver, or achieve fertilization can be defined as male infertility, with roughly one in every seven men known to have some form of fertility challenges – some of which are physiological while the others are psychological.
An individual case may have a single or multiple causes associated with his infertility, but in some cases, thereby may be an identifiable cause of infertility. This is seen in about a third of all male infertility cases.
In addition to the most obvious symptom of infertility, which is the inability to procreate and bear a child, the common signs that indicate the possibility of infertility include – premature ejaculation, reduced volume of ejaculation, reduced libido, and erectile dysfunction.
In some cases, the individual may also have pain and/or lumps in the testicular region, recurring respiratory infections, inability to smell, abnormal growth of breasts, reduced facial hair, indicative of hormonal deficiencies/defects, and a reduced sperm count.
In the identifiable causes of male infertility, the common ones include – sperm disorders, such as challenges with sperm development, sperm transport & delivery, motility, and morphology, amongst others.
Genital tract abnormalities and obstructions also cause male infertility. Varicoceles or varicose veins in the scrotum are common causes and can result in reduced or absent sperm production.
Some of the other issues that result in male infertility consist of anti-sperm antibodies, endocrine problems, testicular failure, and genetic disorders account for a small percentage of male infertility. In some cases, the lifestyle of the individual can also contribute to infertility. Lifestyle factors, such as smoking, excessive alcohol use, contact with carcinogens, and exposure of the genitals to extreme heat are commonly associated with an inability to procreate.
While physiological and psychological factors often cause infertility, there are cases wherein there is no attributable cause associated with the individual’s infertility. Also, in many cases, the risk is escalated by several lifestyle or occupational factors. Some of the lifestyle choices associated with increased risk to a man’s fertility include smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, inability to maintain adequate weight, and a sedentary lifestyle.
Specific occupational hazards also increase the risk of infertility – such as exposure to toxins and/or pollutants, working on conditions with extreme heat leading to overheating of the testicular region. The risk of infertility is also increased by pelvic surgeries, infections, trauma/injury to the pelvic or testicular area, possible infertility in a close family, having a congenital case of undescended testicles, amongst others.