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Male infertility: preserving fertility and treating infertility problems

An estimated one third of infertility cases are caused by male infertility. Since men are often tested first when couples seek help to get pregnant, these problems are typically identified at a fairly early stage in the journey toward conception.

Common causes of male infertility are:

  • Varicocele – The most common cause of male infertility occurs when swollen veins in the scrotum lead to reduced sperm production. Your doctor will decide if treatment is necessary and whether surgery may be required.
  • Low sperm count – Excessive alcohol or tobacco use, stress, obesity, and aging can all contribute to a low sperm count. Other factors include exposure to some pesticides and heavy metals, and even excessive bicycling.
  • Abnormal sperm – Infections, STDs, and genetics can all cause poor quality or misshapen sperm. Sperm washing can help to separate out the highest quality sperm.
  • Internal blockage – Blocked or damaged sperm ducts can make ejaculation difficult or impossible. Again, your doctor will know if surgery can resolve the issue.
  • Certain medicines – Steroids, some antibiotics and cancer medications can all impair sperm production.
  • Undescended testicle – If the testicles failed to descend properly during infancy, and it was not corrected, sperm is unable to be produced.
  • Underlying medical problem, such as a hormonal imbalance or a genetic condition.
  • New studies suggest that frequent cycling reduces sperm motility and the numbers of active sperm.

A semen analysis, to study sperm count and quality is used to diagnose many of these issues. Fortunately, more than half of all male fertility problems can be treated with the minimum of invasion. Depending on the source of the problem, possible treatments range from ending exposure to the root cause, or drug therapy, to surgery or sperm retrieval.

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