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Infertility and Men

Possible Male Fertility Problems

  • Sexually transmitted diseases or other infections. Genital infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause infertility in men. The infertility can often be resolved by treating the infection.
  • Blockages, birth defects, or physical damage. In some cases, men are born with blockages in parts of the testicle or other abnormalities that prevent sperm from getting into the semen. Physical trauma to the testicles, prostate, and urethra can also result in fertility problems. Surgery can sometimes correct the problem.
  • Retrograde ejaculation. In this disorder, semen doesn't come out of the penis during ejaculation, but instead enters the bladder. It can be caused by diabetes, certain medications, and surgery to the bladder, prostate, or urethra.
  • Genetic diseases. Although it's rare, genetic illnesses such as cystic fibrosis or chromosomal disorders can cause infertility.
  • Autoimmune problems. In some cases, the immune system can mistakenly target sperm cells and treat them as if they were a foreign virus. The sperm can become damaged as a result.
  • Hormonal problems. Certain hormonal imbalances -- in the pituitary and thyroid glands, for instance -- can cause infertility. Your doctor may suggest treatment with medication.
  • Sexual problems. Erectile dysfunction (impotence) and premature ejaculation can obviously have an effect on fertility. Erectile dysfunction can be caused by psychological problems such as anxiety, guilt, or low self-esteem. It is also caused by physical problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease. In addition, impotence may be a side effect of certain medications such as antidepressants. Talk to your doctor about ways of treating any sexual problems.
  • Varicoceles. Varicoceles are enlarged varicose veins that develop in the scrotum and prevent blood from flowing properly. Varicoceles are found in 15% of all men and in up to 40% of men being evaluated for infertility. Although they may be a factor in male infertility, recent studies question whether surgery to correct varicoceles has any beneficial effect.

Other Factors in Male Infertility

  • Excessive exercise; studies have shown that exercising too much may lead to the release of too many steroid hormones. This can affect fertility.
  • Stress
  • Obesity
  • Use of drugs, alcohol, or tobacco; smoking tobacco, using drugs such as marijuana and cocaine, and taking steroids can reduce sperm counts.
  • Exposure to toxins and environmental hazards; pesticides, lead, radiation, radioactive substances, mercury, and heavy metals may affect fertility.
  • Heat; although the effect is usually temporary, high temperatures in the testicles could reduce sperm production. High heat could result from wearing clothing that's too tight and traps heat, frequent bike riding, or by taking too many hot baths or saunas.

Getting Pregnant With Male Infertility

If you're a guy who has been diagnosed with infertility, you should talk to your doctor about any behavorial changes you can make that might increase your chances of conceiving.

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