When the word “infertility” is used most people think about female infertility. Infertility affects 15% of couples attempting pregnancy in the United States. In half of these cases, couples will have a male factor of infertility of about 25%.
Male infertility is due to low sperm count, blockages that prevent the delivery of sperm or abnormal sperm function. Illnesses, chronic health problems, injuries, lifestyle choices, and other factors can also be a factor in male infertility.
The main sign of male infertility is the inability to conceive a child. There may be no other obvious signs or symptoms. However, in some cases an underlying problem such as a hormonal imbalance, an inherited disorder or dilated veins around the testicle causes signs and symptoms.
Although most men with male infertility do not notice symptoms here are some signs and symptoms associated with male infertility:
- Difficulty with ejaculation or small volumes of fluid ejaculated
- Pain, swelling or a lump in the testicle area
- Reduced sexual desire
- Recurrent respiratory infections
- Abnormal breast growth (gynecomastia)
- Decreased facial or body hair or other signs of a chromosomal or hormonal abnormality
- Erectile dysfunction
- A lower than normal sperm count
Male infertility can be caused by a number of different health issues and medical treatments. Some may include:
- Varicocele. A varicocele is a swelling of the veins that drain the testicle. It’s the most common reversible cause of male infertility. Varicoceles result in reduced quality of the sperm.
- Ejaculation issues. Retrograde ejaculation occurs when semen enters the bladder during orgasm instead of emerging out the tip of the penis.
- Certain medications. Long-term anabolic steroid use, cancer medications, certain antifungal medications, and other medications can impair sperm production and decrease male fertility.
- Tumors. Cancers and nonmalignant tumors can affect the male reproductive organs. In some cases, surgery, radiation or chemotherapy to treat tumors can affect male fertility.
When to See a Doctor
You should see a doctor after one year of being unable to conceive a child with unprotected intercourse or if you start noticing signs and symptoms.