Infertility in Males - Causes and Testing
Male infertility is a subject that many men still find uncomfortable; however, fertility problems in men are not rare. About two thirds of couples undergoing fertility treatment are trying to overcome some type of male infertility. Male infertility can range from a decrease in sperm production to a physical blockage that prevents sperm from reaching its destination. Fortunately, we are able to treat most forms of male infertility at our Fort Lauderdale-area practice in Southeast Florida.
A varicocele is a varicose vein in the scrotum. When blood flow backs up and pools in the vein, it becomes enlarged and causes overheating of the testicles. This can affect sperm production, motility, and morphology. Fortunately, this common cause of male infertility is easily diagnosed during a physical examination and is treatable with surgery.
Epididymal or Vas Deferens Defect
The epididymus and the vas deferens are two major tubes in the male reproductive system. The epididymus is tightly coiled and sits just above the testes, providing storage for sperm cells while they mature. The vas deferens carries the sperm out of the epididymus to the seminal vesicles, where they are mixed with the first of the various substances that make up semen. If either of these tubes is blocked, malformed, or absent, the sperm cells will not be carried out of the testes and male infertility will result.
A blockage can usually be corrected surgically. If the tube is absent or irreparable, it may still be possible to conceive, so long as healthy sperm are being produced. A testicular epididymal sperm aspiration (TESA) can be performed to remove sperm directly from the testes for use during in vitro fertilization.
Some cases of male infertility are due to temporary factors that, once identified, are usually reversible. Any kind of infection, from a common flu to a sexually transmitted disease, can cause a reduction in sperm production and quality. In these cases, diagnosing and treating the infection can usually restore fertility, although it may take a few months before the effects are completely reversed.
Certain environmental factors can also be to blame for male infertility. Frequent and prolonged overheating of the testes, exposure to harmful substances or radiation, smoking, and heavy alcohol consumption all have the potential to reduce the number of healthy sperm a man produces.
Although far more common a cause of female infertility than male infertility, a hormonal imbalance is a potential problem that can interfere with the production of sperm and seminal fluids and even decrease sex drive. Blood tests are administered to measure the levels of testosterone, FSH, and LH. Depending on the findings, the solution may involve medication, treatment for an underlying condition, or advanced reproductive technology.
Certain rare genetic conditions, such as Klinefelter's or Young's syndrome, can result in male infertility. These are not routinely screened for unless there is a family history of the condition or a semen analysis reveals azoospermia (a complete lack of sperm in the sample). Some such conditions can be overcome with advanced reproductive technology, while others cannot.
To learn more about male infertility, contact our Fort Lauderdale-area practice, serving all of Southeast Florida.