Issues of infertility can affect men and women. In fact, each group is responsible for 30% of infertility cases. The rest is a combination of both male and female factors. Therefore, it is necessary that both partners’ fertility is checked. More so if they are unable to conceive after more than a year of regular, unprotected intercourse. If it is the male who is the contributing cause of infertility, knowing and understanding the infertility warning signs can help.
What are the symptoms of male infertility?
Male infertility can have multiple causes. Some are due to problems with sperm development. In other cases, they might experience difficulty in delivering sperm to the woman’s ovaries. Infertility usually does not show visible symptoms, especially in men. It is only found out until efforts to conceive begin. However, there are male infertility warning signs you should be aware of:
Low sexual drive
Male infertility warning signs include lack of sex drive. Changes in virility are triggered by the hormones responsible for the male reproductive system. Injuries and diseases like pituitary tumors can cause hormonal problems.
Pain, discomfort, and swelling in the testicles
These can be caused by trauma or minor accidents such as a direct kick to the crotch. Sometimes, these are medical emergencies that may require surgery.
Testicular swelling can be caused by the following:
- Testicular torsion. This is characterized by a twisted testicle in the scrotum. As a result, blood flow is disrupted, which impairs the functionality of the testicles.
- Varicoceles. This is an enlargement of veins in the scrotum.
- Epididymitis. This is due to a bacterial infection in the testicles.
- Hydrocele. This occurs when there is the buildup of fluid around the testicles due to an injury.
- Hernia. If not treated immediately, it can damage the vas deferens, the tube in which the sperm travels through.
Erectile dysfunction (ED)
This is one of the most obvious infertility warning signs among men. It is the inability to maintain an erection firm enough for intercourse. This condition affects at least 30 million males. In most cases, ED is associated with hormonal imbalances. Other causes include:
- Venous leak. A venous leak occurs when the blood vessels do not compress enough to keep blood during sexual arousal.
- Anxiety and stress. Studies show that psychological factors can affect a man’s sexual drive and performance.
- Poor lifestyle choices. Alcohol, tobacco, and drugs contain ingredients that can affect the functionality of the reproductive organs.
Issues with ejaculation
Difficulty in ejaculating during intercourse is one of the more observable male infertility warning signs. This is often a direct result of erectile dysfunction. The inability to ejaculate can indicate problems with sperm production as well as other health conditions. These include:
- Genetic defects. Chromosomal abnormalities such as Down’s Syndrome and spina bifida can affect sperm quality.
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs). STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause infection in the reproductive organs and impair fertility.
- Medication. Some drugs and medications can cause male infertility. For example, anabolic steroids lower sperm quantity.
- Exposure to heat and radiation. The testicles have a lower temperature compared to other organs. Subjecting them to heat or high doses of radiation can cause permanent damage to sperm production.
Other infertility warning signs in males include loss or thinning of hair, retrograde ejaculation, and enlarged breasts (gynecomastia).
How is male infertility diagnosed?
After knowing male infertility warning signs, it is important to get checked by your doctor so proper treatment can be prescribed. Diagnosis usually begins with a physical exam. This will include disclosing your medical history, as well as your sexual habits. These will help determine factors that might cause your infertility. Afterward, men are subjected to additional tests, including:
- Semen analysis. A sample of your semen is taken for laboratory evaluation. It usually includes examining sperm count, motility, and appearance.
- Testicular biopsy. A needle is inserted through the scrotum in order to take a sample of tissue from the testes. This method is used to check sperm production.
- Ultrasonography. An ultrasound maps out the reproductive organ, which makes it easy to check for blockages and scarring.
- Hemizona assay and Acrosome reaction. These are examples of lab tests that examine a sperm’s penetration abilities.
How is male infertility treated?
Treatment of male infertility depends on the cause. This is determined by infertility warning signs and diagnosis. Male infertility can be treated with medication and certain procedures, some of which include:
Certain medications can alter hormone levels that affect fertility. For example, Gonadotropin involves injecting recombinant human follicle-stimulating hormone (rhFSH) into the blood, which helps increase sperm count.
Damage and blockages within the reproductive organs can be surgically corrected. For example, varicoceles are repaired by cutting off the abnormal veins. Moreover, obstructions within the reproductive tract can be removed through surgery.
Proper diet, exercise, and avoidance of bad habits, such as alcoholism and smoking, can improve fertility.
Assisted Reproductive Technologies
For couples who are trying to conceive, assisted reproductive technologies (ART) may also be advised. These are fertility methods used to stimulate pregnancy. Examples of ART include:
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI). This procedure places sperm directly into the uterus using a fine catheter. It is recommended to do this at the time of ovulation.
- In-vitro fertilization (IVF). IVF surgically collects eggs and are combined with sperm in a petri dish where fertilization can occur. The embryos are then planted into your uterus. This procedure requires hormone pre-treatment.
- Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). This is done together with IVF. In this advanced procedure, a single, healthy sperm is injected into an egg to create an embryo.
Male infertility accounts for 30% of all infertility cases. It is usually caused by problems in sperm production and other physical dysfunctions. Symptoms of male infertility are not usually visible. Sometimes, it is not until the couple tries to conceive that problems will surface. It is important to understand fertility and check for any infertility warning signs. In doing so, couples and men can seek the treatment they need.
Learn more about Getting Pregnant here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.