Male infertility is a common medical problem that can affect up to one third of couples.

For many men, infertility a very distressing diagnosis, especially when trying to conceive a child with a partner. Knowing the causes of male infertility and how to test for it can help.

  • Once the cause of the infertility is identified there are possible treatment options.
  • Treatments can be as simple as making sure the testicles are exposed to less heat to surgery to physically remove sperm from the body.

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What Causes Male Infertility?

There are several causes for male infertility. For example:

Infection: An infection can scar the passages that sperm travel out of the body. These can be caused by inflammation of the epididymitis or the testicles. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can also damage these passages.

Retrograde Ejaculation: This is when the semen travels into the bladder during orgasm instead of out of the body through the penis.

Cancer: Cancers can attack the male reproductive system as well as the glands that create the hormones necessary for reproduction.

Imbalanced Hormones: Hypogonadism (low testosterone) is a common issue with men who have reproductive problems.


Chromosome Issues: Conditions such as cystic fibrosis and Klinefelter syndrome will cause problems with a man’s reproductive organs.

Environmental Problems: This includes being exposed to toxic chemicals or metals, as well as overheating of the testicles. This can be caused by a condition called varicoceles where the blood vessels around the testicles become enlarged.

Lifestyle Issues: Being overweight, smoking, and alcohol and substance abuse all contribute to male infertility. Emotional stress can also be an issue too with male infertility.

These and many others make it difficult for men to produce sperm. Or, if they can produce sperm, there is very little of it. They can also have problems transferring what sperm they do make to their partner through sexual intercourse.

Male Infertility Testing

Because there are so many ways men can possibly be infertile, testing is necessary to better determine a cause. When undergoing male infertility testing there are several assessments that will be made.

Semen Analysis: This is when semen is collected from the male through masturbation. The sample is analyzed to determine how many sperm are in the sample and whether or not they are healthy. A low sperm count or unhealthy sperm means a lower chance of conceiving naturally.

Genetic Tests: Testing is done to check for genetic abnormalities that could cause infertility. For instance, the deletion of a gene or the presence of cystic fibrosis are problems.

Hormone Testing: Hormone testing determines whether or not enough hormones such as testosterone are being produced. Men with low testosterone make less sperm. Most men begin experiencing a decrease in testosterone after age 30.

Scrotal Ultrasound: This is when a series of digital photographs is made of the groin area using sound waves. The objective of scrotal ultrasound is to identify any physical problems with the scrotum, testicles, or the blood vessels in that region.

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Faysal A. Yafi, M.D., F.R.C.S.C.
Male Urology
Associate Professor of Urology, Director of Newport Beach Urology, Director of Men's Health, Chief, Division of Men's Health and Reconstructive Urology

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