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Causes of Male Infertility

If you and your partner have been trying to conceive for more than one year unsuccessfully, you may want to consult with your doctor about the possible reasons behind your struggle. While many couples tend to assume their fertility problems are female-related, in fact, up to 40 percent of fertility issues are due to male factor infertility. There are many factors that might lead to a manís infertility, though some are more common than others. They include abnormal sperm production or function, impaired delivery of sperm, conditions related to health and lifestyle, and overexposure to certain elements. These potential causes are listed in further detail below.

Varicocele

One of the most common causes of male infertility is a varicocele, affecting approximately 40 percent of infertile men. A varicocele occurs when the veins in the scrotum are enlarged on one or both sides, which causes the temperature of the scrotum to increase and affects both the production and quality of sperm. There are no symptoms associated with varicocele, but a physical exam and semen analysis can help diagnose the problem. About 30 to 35 percent of men go on to impregnate their partners after undergoing surgery to repair the varicocele.

Sperm Disorders

Problems with the production and maturation of sperm are other common causes of male infertility. Sperm may be immature, abnormally shaped, or unable to move properly, while normal sperm may be produced in abnormally low numbers (oligospermia) or seemingly not at all (azoospermia). Sperm disorders can be caused by many factors, including infectious diseases, inflammatory conditions, endocrine or hormonal disorders, immunological disorders, genetic diseases and environmental and lifestyle factors.

Blocked tubes

Some men are born with blockage of the vas deferens or the epididymis, the part of the testicle that contains sperm, which prevents a manís sperm from reaching his partnerís egg. Blockage may also occur for a variety of other reasons, including prior vasectomy, injury, scarring from sexually transmitted disease or anatomical defects. A surgical procedure may be done to clear the blockage and about 50 to 80 percent of men have sperm in their semen following the surgery. Many men with blocked tubes elect to undergo fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) following corrective surgery to improve their chances of impregnating their partners. About 25 to 40 percent of couples conceive following these treatments.

Heat

When the temperature of a manís testicles (where sperm is produced) increases, it can greatly reduce the number of sperm and the strength of sperm movement, as well as increase the number of abnormal sperm he produces. Conditions which can raise the temperature of the testicles may include exposure to excessive heat or heat over an extended period of time, prolonged fever, varicocele, or contact with heated objects like saunas, hot tubs and heating blankets. It is generally believed that sperm recover quickly from heat exposure, so a manís sperm count should return to normal within about a week.

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