Causes of Male Infertility

Infertility is a reproductive system disorder which results in the inability of a couple to procreate. The reasons for not being able to conceive can be varied and could be related to either partner. When the reproductive system of the male has a problem which makes it difficult for the couple to have a child, it is termed male infertility.

Male infertility is on the rise in society. Approximately 15% of married couples have trouble conceiving despite having regular unprotected sex for more than a year. Out of the couples who are in their thirties, only 30% are able to conceive within the first three months; the rest have trouble due to male infertility issues.

Here is an overview of a few of the reasons why male infertility may occur. This is not, by any means, an exhaustive list.

Lifestyle Problems

Smoking

Cigarettes not only affect the lungs, but also have a detrimental effect on the male’s sperm count.  The decrease in sperm count and sperm cell motility can cause male infertility.

Alcohol

Long term alcoholics do damage to their sperm. In fact, drinking regularly lowers testosterone levels, leading to fertility issues.

Drug Abuse

Anabolic steroids used by men to build body muscles actually cause the testicles to reduce in size. This affects the ability of the testicles to produce sperm. Illicit drugs like cocaine, marijuana, or other recreational drugs, can also cause issues with the sperm, leading to infertility.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Not eating a healthy diet can cause vitamin C and zinc deficiencies. Both deficiencies affect the ability of a male to produce healthy sperm. If the diet is not providing enough nutrition, consider taking supplement pills.

Stress

A great amount of pressure can come from the environment, causing an individual considerable physical and emotional stress. This can affect the body processes required to produce healthy sperm. Prolonged emotional stress may affect the ability of a male to produce sperm, leading to infertility.

Hormonal Issues

Hyperprolactinemia

Elevated levels of the hormone prolactin, usually associated with nursing mothers, can reduce sperm production in males. It also reduces the male libido. There may be issues of impotence as well.

Hypothyroidism

Low levels of the hormone thyroid can disturb libido, reduce the quality and quantity of sperm, and cause poor testicular function, leading to male infertility. Hypothyroidism causes 1% of male infertility.

Congenial Adrenal Hyperplasia

High levels of adrenal androgens will suppress the pituitary gland, leading to a reduced sperm count as well as low motility for sperm cells. There is an increase in production of immature sperm cells.

Hypogonadotropic Hypopituitarism

When the pituitary gland produces low levels of Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), sperm development is arrested. This causes a loss of germ cells in the testicles, and the seminiferoustubules and Leydig cells start to deteriorate, in turn causing infertility.

Panhypopituitafism  

The condition refers to the failure of the pituitary gland to produce hormones like LH, FSH, Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) and Growth Hormone (GH) in adequate quantities. It affects sperm production leading to male infertility.

Physical Problems

Varicocele

This is characterized by the enlargement of the internal veins that flow from the testicles to the abdomen. The enlargement causes backflow of blood from the abdomen into the scrotum sac, endangering sperm development. Nearly 40% of infertility in men is caused by this condition.

Damaged Sperm Ducts  

In this case, the ducts that transfer sperm from the testicles to the penis are blocked or damaged. The sperm is physically unable to exit the body, causing fertility issues.

Torsion  

This is a tissue-related problem in which the testes get twisted inside the scrotum. There is swelling in the region as the blood vessels which deliver to the testes get blocked. If not treated, the testicles will get damaged, resulting in permanent male infertility.

Klinefelter’s Syndrome

This is a genetic condition in which the male is born with an extra X chromosome. The male will have tiny testicles and enlarged breasts. Eventually the testicles will atrophy and cause permanent infertility.

Retrograde Ejaculation

Here the semen is ejaculated into the bladder instead of the urethra as the bladder sphincter doesn’t shut during ejaculation. The condition, which affects 1.5% of males, requires corrective surgery.

Psychological Issues

Erectile Dysfunction

Commonly known as impotence, this is a very common reason for fertility issues. It can be caused by a combination of multiple reasons. Most males who have this also suffer from a psychological problem that causes low self-esteem, performance anxiety and a lot of guilt.

Premature Ejaculation  

This refers to the problem where the male ejaculates within thirty seconds of penetration. It can become a fertility problem if ejaculation occurs before proper penetration into the vagina takes place.

Ejaculatory Incompetence

in this condition, the male is unable to ejaculate during coitus, but can ejaculate when masturbating. It is a rare psychological disorder.

Reviewed by Afsaneh Khetrapal BSc (Hons)

References

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jan 17, 2017

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