Male infertility is a rising concern. More and more young couples are knocking at the doors of fertility clinics in search of a baby. So what are the causes of infertility in men?
We spoke some of the leading experts on this issue. According to them, there are broadly 15 causes of infertility in males.
Causes Of Infertility In Men
- Impotence: The penis loses its erection before orgasm. In worse cases, the penis doesn’t erect at all. Drugs like Viagra, Levitra Stendra, etc. relax the blood vessels and give repeated erections to the penis. However, they pose a risk of a heart attack so one has to be careful while having them. Drugs such as marijuana, opium, and nicotine cause impotence. Smoking cigarettes can lead to zero sperm count condition which is irreversible male infertility.
- Inflammation of blood vessels of the testis: This may be due to infection or due to problems in the tissue surrounding the testis. This makes it difficult for the semen with the sperms to reach the urethra for ejaculation. This condition is known as ‘Varicocele’. The blood vessels prevent semen formation and also make sex painful.
- Ejaculation incapacity: Either the semen is not produced, or not ejaculated out of the urethra. It may be that the male has a good sperm count but the semen instead of coming out goes inside the body in opposite direction. This is retrograde ejaculation. Any spinal injuries or bladder operations can cause this to happen as a consequence. This is a treatable condition. For treatment semen collected from the testes directly and injected into the female’s vagina.
- Erectile dysfunction: In this condition, a male is not able to hold his penile erection for long at times. There may be premature ejaculation or no ejaculation at all and simply the semen oozes out and drips off. Semen must ejaculate deep in the vagina as the fertilization takes place in the fallopian tube. This causes infertility in men.
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases: Infections like sexually transmitted diseases STDs can make a man infertile. The pathogens or the symptoms might block the vas deferens (sperm canal) or degenerate the penis as in genital herpes. The rashes make sex painful.
- Physiological causes of infertility in men: The temperature of scrotal sacs has to be around 2° C lower than the body temperature. This is because sperms need a lower temperature during storage. If the scrotal sacs are too close to the body, then the temperature might not be suitable, and hence the sperms will become dysfunctional.
- Hormonal misbalance: Hormones are ultimately responsible for the entire functioning of the body. Sex hormones or reproductive hormones are steroidal (have cholesterol in their ring) or peptide (made of proteins) in nature. Even a nano gram change can lead to devastating effects on a gamete cell. Androgen is the main male hormone that is responsible for libido and other sexual activities. If problems in testicular cells affect sperm production, then infertility in men occurs.
- Auto immune disorders: Antibodies can develop against one’s own sperms. Auto immune means that body gets defensive against its own self. Due to carcinogenic (cancer causing) agents body becomes defensive against its own sperm cells. Immune system will destroy sperms and male infertility will be the consequence.
- Psychological causes of infertility in men: Homosexuals, asexual and other psychologically disturbed men might abhor normal sex. In such a case he will not be able to penetrate his penis into his partner’s vagina. The brain will trigger disgust and eventually, he will stop. Such men fall in the category of infertile men.
- There is a huge impact of psychological interpretation of sex that affects a man’s ability to procreate. A lot of childhood activities such as treating a boy as a girl or child sexual abuse have detrimental effects. It can even lead to infertility in men.
- Prescriptions that cause infertility in men: Hormonal therapies, chemotherapeutic drugs, antifungal drugs, medicines for ulcers and anti psychotic drugs cause infertility in men. They reduce male sperm count and hence lead to infertility in men.
- Metabolic disorders: Celiac disease is a syndrome in which the patient becomes sensitive to gluten. A gluten free diet can reverse the male infertility due to the disease.
- Genetics causes of infertility in men: If there is a chromosomal aberration (defect in structure) in the sex chromosomes it causes infertility in men. They are responsible for determining the gender and affect the sexual characteristics. The chromosome inside the cell guides and is responsible for every action. If the chromosome is defective, then it is obvious that the function will not be proper. Gene replacement therapies for genetically infertile men are being explored.
- Blocked tubes for sperm transport: The sperm goes through many ducts from the testis to the urethra from where they have the common passage shared by urine duct. If there is a blockage in the any of these tubes then even normal sperms won’t reach the urethra. So infertility in men will be the outcome. This is the same principle applied for permanent sterilization in which the tubes are cut and tied in vasectomy.
- Tumors and cancers of reproductive parts: Tumor in the prostate gland or any other reproductive organ can make a male infertile. It is very evident that a tumor will hamper the particular organ’s function. But also as it grows in size, it will pressurize and crush the other surrounding area. Eventually, removal of the organ will be necessary to prevent further damage.
- Anatomical defects in reproductive parts: Chronic untreatable infertility is due to Cyrptochiodism or Hypospadias. Cyrptochiodism is the condition in which testis remain in the abdomen and don’t descend in scrotal sacs. Hypospadias is the condition in which the urethra is under the penis so it can’t deliver the sperms. For these artificial therapy is necessary to treat the cause of male infertility.
Risk factors for infertility in men
- Alcoholism: Chronic alcoholism in men leads to impotence. The sperm count goes far below than the normal level and men lose vigor and libido. The virility of an alcoholic man reduces dramatically.
- Smoking more than permissible amounts: Nicotine in cigarettes causes stimulation of the adrenaline hormone. Nicotine leafs to infertility in men. Only in the case of infertility, the effect of smoking on men is worse than on women.
- Taking Drugs or Drug Abuse: Drugs like marijuana and cocaine lead to infertility in men. Steroidal preparations for accelerating muscle growth can also cause infertility in men.
- Environmental impact: Being exposed to different kinds of pollutants or loud noise can impact sexual performance. Thus it affects fertility in men.
- Exposure to laptop radiations and other thermal radiation: Scrotal sacs or say testis need a lower temperature than the body temperature. A study was recently published in an international journal about ‘men who keep their laptops on their laps tend to have lower sperm counts’. This is because the laptop battery radiates heat and thus heats the region and affects the sperm production. Any other heat sources like using dryers for genital parts can also lead to infertility in men.
- Stress: Emotional and physical stress beyond a limit has direct influence over the limbic system. Limbic system controls emotions and sexual desires. This can affect libido and might lead to infertility in men.
- X-ray radiations: Radiations are harmful for any part of the body. X Ray radiations can lead to triggering of oncogenes (inert cancer genes) and lead to tumors of the male sex glands.
- Weight mismanagement: Obesity has adverse affects and so does abnormally low weight. Just like other things weight fluctuations and imbalance can affect the fertility in men.
- Masturbation: It is the act of stimulating yourself sexually by caressing genital areas and performing the virtual sexual act. It adversely affects the virility and libido of a man. Medical scholars, advice men to stop practicing Masturbation. Erectile dysfunction, impotence, and infertility are ill effects of masturbation. Masturbation alone has no benefits. All the viral articles praising masturbation are actually good effects of sex.
- Exposure to industrial effluents and heavy metals: Exposure to industrial waste like benzene, chloroform or heavy metals like Mercury, lead etc. can lead to infertility in men.
Note that age is not a risk factor in male infertility unlike in females where age is a key risk factor of infertility.