Infertility affects up to 15% of couples trying to conceive. In these couples, a problem only with the man is found in 30%. In another 20% there is both a male and a female factor involved. These statistics show that in 50% of couples affected by infertility, a male factor is at least partially the problem.
Causes of Male Infertility
Three main areas that can cause infertility issues for men:
- If there is a hormonal imbalance, sperm production can be interrupted causing infertility. This can be detected with simple blood tests. If found, most hormonal imbalances can be corrected with medications. Common causes of hormone imbalance include: pituitary gland problems, aging, obesity, and low testosterone.
- Impaired testicular production of sperm, where the testicles are not making sperm can cause infertility. Impaired testicular production can be caused by a number of factors including exposure to chemicals, low testosterone, a history of an undescended testicle, testicular cancer, previous cancer treatment, mumps, infections, and chromosomal abnormalities.
- Post-testicular causes of infertility are due to a blockage of or failure of sperm transport from the testicle to the penis. Common causes of this include a vasectomy, a history of hernia surgery, cystic fibrosis, aspermia (no ejaculation), and retrograde ejaculation.
Diagnosing Male Infertility
The basic infertility evaluation consists of a thorough reproductive history, physical examination, hormonal profile, and semen analysis. Further evaluation may be needed based on the results of these tests. Additional tests could potentially include genetic testing, sperm testing, and an ultrasound of the prostate or other urologic organs.
Treating Male Infertility
Each patient is treated to optimize his fertility potential based on the results of his evaluation. Medical treatment for infertility includes correction of hormonal imbalances, most commonly low testosterone.