Male Infertility: Understanding the Causes and Treatment

While either or both partners may contribute to the reproductive difficulties faced by the couple, male infertility, like female infertility, is a clinical diagnosis that can only be concluded after formal assessment and testing.

Let us understand a little more about male infertility and fertility treatments.

How common is male infertility?

One in eight couples has problems getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy. Around one-third of infertility is attributed to the female partner, one-third attributed to the male partner, and one-third is a result of an amalgamation of problems in both partners and is unsolved.

Male infertility is more common in surroundings with high levels of environmental pollution such as water contaminants, herbicides, and pesticides. Some recent population studies have stated that sperm counts have been decreasing universally, even though infertility has not been increasing significantly.

What causes male infertility?

In at least 50% of male infertility cases, doctors cannot determine an exact cause. For the remaining cases, infertility is because of genetic, environmental, or other recognisable factors.

Common Environmental Causes of Male Infertility

  • Chronic illnesses, such as malnutrition, anaemia, neurological disease, cancer, or diabetes
  • Dietary deficiencies, such as vitamin C, zinc, and folic acid
  • Varicocele – a condition in which the veins expand in the scrotum
  • Illnesses of the male genital tract, including infection, trauma, cancer, or retrograde ejaculation
  • Excess heat, for instance, due to the male’s occupation, such as welders, truck drivers, or firefighters
  • Habits such as extra use of the hot tub or wearing tight clothing.
  • Drugs like certain antibiotics and prescription medicines, alcohol, marijuana, and anabolic steroids.
  • Toxicants, such as herbicides, pesticides, heavy metals, mercury, lead, or paint
  • Stress
  • Strenuous exercise, including bicycling
  • Surgery on the male genital tract, like for the treatment of undescended testicle, or hernia
  • Obesity

Genetic Causes of Male Infertility

  • Mutations in the genes that determine the male sex, called the Y-chromosome
  • Other irregular variations in the genes. For example, some men have a disorder called Klinefelter’s XXY syndrome in which they have an extra copy of the female-sex-determining genes (the X chromosome)
  • Hormonal issues, such as diabetes, high levels of the milk-generating hormone prolactin, or issues with the hormone-generating organs like the thyroid or adrenal gland.

Male Infertility Treatments

Not all male infertility issues are untreatable or permanent. Also, it is not unusual for men to treat infertility through one or a combination of the following infertility treatments and tips:

  • Avoiding damaging environmental factors like smoking, heavy exercise, heat exposure, toxicants, excessive alcohol, or certain drugs
  • Decreasing stress
  • Taking medications, likeantibiotics (if an infection is detected)
  • Vitamins, such as zinc, folic acid, or L-carnitine
  • Alternative medicine; although certain types of herbs may be harmful, Acupuncture is generally not damaging.
  • Surgery, such as reversing a vasectomy or fixing a condition called a varicocele, in which the veins inside the scrotum are enlarged
  • Antioxidants, that can be consumed via food or supplements
  • In vitro fertilization, which is usually done through a process called Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)

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