Understanding the Causes of Infertility in Males

"African-American man experiencing a lack of appetite, possibly due to an eating disorder or depression, which can be factors contributing to causes of infertility in males

Understanding the Causes of Infertility in Males


Infertility is a condition that affects both men and women, and it can be a challenging and emotionally distressing experience for couples trying to conceive. While there are various factors that contribute to infertility, this article will focus on understanding the causes of infertility in males.

Male infertility is a common issue, accounting for approximately 40-50% of all infertility cases. It is crucial to comprehend the underlying causes of male infertility to facilitate appropriate diagnosis and treatment options.

This article will explore the different factors that can lead to male infertility, including low sperm count, abnormal sperm morphology, impaired sperm motility, genetic factors, and other potential causes.

Major Causes Of Infertility in Males

Low Sperm Count

Low sperm count, or oligospermia, is one of the main causes of male infertility. Less than 15 million sperm are present per milliliter of semen when the sperm count is low. Sperm count is an essential factor in fertility because it determines the chances of fertilizing an egg successfully.

Several factors can contribute to a low sperm count, including hormonal imbalances, genetic conditions, testicular infections, varicocele (enlarged veins within the scrotum), exposure to certain chemicals or medications, and decisions made regarding one’s lifestyle, like smoking or binge drinking.

Abnormal Sperm Morphology

The size and form of sperm cells are referred to as sperm morphology. Normal sperm morphology is crucial for successful fertilization as abnormalities in shape can hinder their ability to penetrate the egg. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 4% of sperm should have normal morphology for optimal fertility.

However, when a significant percentage of sperm have abnormal morphology (teratospermia), it can lead to male infertility. Various factors can contribute to abnormal sperm morphology, including genetic abnormalities, hormonal imbalances, testicular infections, exposure to toxins or radiation, and certain medications.

Impaired Sperm Motility

The term “sperm motility” describes the ability of sperm cells to swim and move. It is a critical factor in fertility as sperm need to navigate through the female reproductive tract to reach and fertilize the egg. Reduced sperm motility, also known as asthenospermia, can significantly impact fertility.

Several factors can contribute to impaired sperm motility, including hormonal imbalances, genetic abnormalities, testicular infections, varicocele, exposure to environmental toxins, excessive heat exposure (such as hot tubs or saunas), and certain medications.

Genetic Factors

Male infertility can be largely attributed to genetic factors. Certain genetic conditions can affect sperm production or function, leading to infertility. For example, Klinefelter syndrome is a genetic disorder where males have an extra X chromosome (XXY instead of XY).

This condition can result in reduced testosterone production and impaired sperm production. Other genetic conditions that can cause male infertility include Y chromosome deletions, cystic fibrosis gene mutations, and chromosomal abnormalities.

Other Potential Causes

In addition to the factors mentioned above, there are several other potential causes of male infertility. These include:

1. Testicular Factors:

Testicular factors refer to conditions that affect the testicles’ ability to produce healthy sperm. These conditions can include undescended testicles (cryptorchidism), testicular trauma or injury, testicular cancer or its treatment (such as radiation or chemotherapy), and testicular torsion (twisting of the testicles).

2. Hormonal Imbalances:

Hormonal imbalances can disrupt the production of testosterone and other hormones necessary for sperm production. Conditions such as hypogonadism (low testosterone levels), hyperprolactinemia (high prolactin levels), and thyroid disorders can contribute to male infertility.

3. Ejaculation Disorders:

Disorders that affect ejaculation can also lead to male infertility. Conditions such as retrograde ejaculation (where semen enters the bladder instead of being ejaculated), premature ejaculation, and erectile dysfunction can hinder the delivery of sperm to the female reproductive tract.

4. Infections:

Infections can affect sperm production and function. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV can cause inflammation and damage to the reproductive organs, leading to infertility. Other infections, such as mumps orchitis (inflammation of the testicles due to mumps virus), can also impact fertility.

5. Varicocele:

Varicocele is a condition characterized by enlarged veins within the scrotum. It is a common cause of male infertility and can lead to reduced sperm production and quality. The exact mechanism by which varicocele affects fertility is not fully understood, but it is believed to increase testicular temperature and disrupt blood flow, impacting sperm production.

Symptoms of Infertility

Male infertility may not always present with noticeable symptoms. However, some potential signs that may indicate infertility include:

1. Alterations in sexual performance (such as struggles with attaining or sustaining an erection.)

Many individuals may not realize that changes in sexual function can be an indicator of underlying health concerns, particularly when it comes to causes of infertility in males. Infertility is a complex issue that affects both partners in a relationship and can have significant emotional and psychological effects. Some common symptoms of infertility in males include difficulty maintaining an erection, reduced sex drive, and changes in ejaculation patterns.

However, it’s important to remember that experiencing these symptoms does not automatically mean you are infertile. Seeking professional medical advice and undergoing diagnostic tests can help determine the root cause of these changes in sexual function. It’s essential for individuals experiencing these issues to communicate openly with their partners about their concerns and seek support from healthcare providers who specialize in fertility treatments.

2. Discomfort, Inflammation, or Abnormal Growths in the testicles.

For any man, facing the distress of pain, swelling, or lumps in the testicles can be a challenging experience. In addition to causing discomfort and anxiety, these symptoms may also indicate possible indications of male infertility.. While many may dismiss them as temporary issues or shy away from seeking help due to embarrassment, it is crucial to address them promptly and compassionately.

Understanding that these symptoms can have a significant impact on a man’s physical and mental well-being is essential. Infertility affects not only the ability to conceive but also challenges one’s self-esteem and relationships. By normalizing conversations around male reproductive health and urging individuals to prioritize their well-being, we can break down stigmas associated with fertility issues and encourage seeking necessary medical support.

Remember, taking care of your reproductive health is an act of self-care that deserves attention and understanding from both yourself and others.

3. Abnormal breast growth (gynecomastia)

Gynecomastia, or abnormal breast growth in males, is often a source of embarrassment and distress for those affected. Beyond the physical symptoms, such as swelling and tenderness in the breasts, gynecomastia can also have emotional implications. Many individuals may experience decreased self-esteem and feelings of insecurity due to this condition. Additionally, the fear of being perceived as less masculine or facing societal judgment can exacerbate the psychological impact.

When considering gynecomastia in relation to infertility in males, it’s essential to acknowledge that this condition does not directly cause infertility. However, certain underlying factors associated with gynecomastia may contribute to fertility issues. For example, hormonal imbalances that lead to abnormal breast growth can affect sperm production and quality. It is crucial for individuals experiencing both gynecomastia and concerns about infertility to seek medical advice to address any potential underlying causes effectively.

4. Decreased facial or body hair

One of the symptoms commonly associated with male infertility is decreased facial or body hair. This can be a concerning sign for men who are trying to conceive. The reduction in hair growth may indicate an underlying hormonal imbalance, such as low levels of testosterone.

Hormonal imbalances can impact sperm production and quality, affecting fertility. It’s important for men experiencing this symptom to consult with a healthcare provider for further evaluation and possible treatment options. Addressing the root cause of the hormonal imbalance can help improve fertility outcomes. Understanding and addressing these symptoms early on can lead to better chances of successful conception in the future.

5. Problems with ejaculation

Facing difficulties with ejaculation can be distressing and frustrating for many individuals, especially when it affects fertility. Symptoms may include delayed ejaculation, premature ejaculation, or even complete inability to ejaculate. These issues can arise from various causes such as psychological factors, hormonal imbalances, or certain medical conditions like diabetes and nerve damage.

Understanding the root cause of the problem is crucial in addressing infertility concerns in males. Seeking medical advice and support from healthcare professionals can lead to proper diagnosis and tailored treatment plans to help improve ejaculation issues and increase chances of conceiving.

Diagnosis Of Infertility In Males

If a couple has been trying to conceive for at least one year without success, it is recommended to seek medical evaluation for both partners. To diagnose male infertility, a comprehensive evaluation is conducted, which includes:

1. Medical History:

During the initial consultation, the doctor will take a detailed medical history to understand any underlying conditions that may affect fertility. This includes asking about past surgeries or treatments that could have an impact on reproductive health. Lifestyle factors like smoking or drug use will also be discussed as they can contribute to infertility issues in males.

Additionally, family history of infertility will be explored to identify potential genetic factors involved. The doctor may ask about any symptoms or concerns related to fertility problems, as well as any previous attempts at conception that were unsuccessful. Understanding these aspects helps in diagnosing the root cause of infertility in males and developing a personalized treatment plan.

It’s important for individuals to openly communicate with their healthcare provider during this process to ensure accurate diagnosis and effective management of fertility issues. The doctor approaches these discussions with empathy and sensitivity, creating a safe space for patients to share their concerns and experiences. By conducting a thorough assessment of medical history, the doctor aims to provide comprehensive care tailored to the specific needs of each individual.

2. Physical Examination:

During the physical examination, the healthcare provider will carefully examine the reproductive organs, such as the testicles and penis, to identify any abnormalities or signs of infection that could be contributing to infertility. This examination is a crucial step in diagnosing the underlying causes of infertility in males.

The healthcare provider  understands the impact that infertility can have on individuals and couples, and  are dedicated to providing a thorough evaluation to determine the root cause. By conducting this physical examination,  important information are gathered that will help guide further testing and treatment options.

Common causes of male infertility include issues with sperm production or blockages in the reproductive system. Identifying these factors through a detailed physical exam is essential for developing an effective treatment plan tailored to each individual’s specific needs.

3. Semen Analysis:

A semen analysis is a crucial diagnostic test for male infertility. It involves collecting a semen sample and analyzing it for various parameters to assess the quality of sperm. The main parameters evaluated during a semen analysis include sperm count, morphology, and motility.

Sperm count refers to the number of sperm present in the semen sample. A low sperm count may indicate a reduced chance of fertilization.

Sperm morphology refers to the shape and structure of the sperm. Abnormalities in sperm morphology can affect their ability to fertilize an egg.

Sperm motility refers to the movement and swimming ability of the sperm. Poor motility can hinder the sperm’s ability to reach and penetrate an egg.

In addition to evaluating these parameters, a semen sample may also be tested for the presence of infections or other abnormalities that could contribute to male infertility.

4. Hormone Testing:

Blood tests may be conducted to measure hormone levels, including testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and prolactin. These examinations assist in locating hormone abnormalities that could be a factor in infertility.

Hormone testing is a diagnostic procedure that involves measuring hormone levels in the blood. This can be done to assess various hormones, including testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and prolactin. These tests are often conducted as part of the evaluation for infertility.

Testosterone is a hormone that plays a crucial role in male reproductive health. Low levels of testosterone can contribute to infertility by affecting sperm production and quality. Measuring testosterone levels can help identify any hormonal imbalances that may be causing fertility issues in men.

By measuring these hormone levels, healthcare providers can identify any abnormalities or imbalances that may be contributing to infertility. This information can help guide further diagnostic testing and treatment options for males struggling with infertility.

5. Genetic Testing:

Genetic testing is a medical procedure that involves analyzing an individual’s DNA to identify any genetic abnormalities or mutations that may be causing male infertility. This type of testing can help determine if there are any underlying genetic conditions that could be contributing to the infertility.

There are several different types of genetic tests that can be performed to assess male infertility. One common test is called a karyotype analysis, which examines the structure and number of chromosomes in a person’s cells. This test can identify chromosomal abnormalities, such as missing or extra chromosomes, which can impact fertility.

Another type of genetic test that may be recommended is a Y chromosome microdeletion analysis. This test specifically looks for deletions or missing sections of the Y chromosome, which is responsible for male sex determination and sperm production. Y chromosome microdeletions can cause severe sperm production issues and lead to male infertility.

In some cases, genetic testing may also involve analyzing specific genes or gene mutations that are known to be associated with male infertility. For example, mutations in genes such as CFTR (cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator) or FSHR (follicle-stimulating hormone receptor) have been linked to impaired sperm production or function.

Genetic testing for male infertility can provide valuable information about the underlying causes of infertility and help guide treatment options. It’s important to note that genetic testing for male infertility is not always necessary or recommended for every individual or couple experiencing fertility issues.

The decision to undergo genetic testing should be made in consultation with a healthcare provider who specializes in reproductive medicine or genetics. They will consider factors such as medical history, symptoms, and other diagnostic tests before recommending genetic testing as part of the infertility evaluation process.

Treatment Options

The treatment options for male infertility depend on the underlying cause and severity of the condition. In some cases, addressing lifestyle factors such as quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, and maintaining a healthy weight can improve fertility. However, if a specific medical condition or genetic abnormality is identified, targeted treatments may be necessary. These are several typical methods used to address male infertility:

1. Medications:

One common approach is prescribing medications to tackle hormonal imbalances that might be affecting fertility. These medications can help regulate hormone levels and improve sperm production, increasing the chances of conception. In addition, treating any underlying infections is crucial in restoring reproductive health.

2. Surgery:

Surgical interventions may be necessary to correct anatomical abnormalities such as varicocele or repair blockages in the reproductive tract.

The specific surgical procedure will depend on the individual’s condition and needs. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine if surgery is a suitable option and to discuss the potential risks and benefits associated with the procedure.

3. Assisted Reproductive Techniques:

Assisted reproductive techniques (ART) can help overcome fertility challenges by facilitating fertilization outside the body. These techniques include intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF), intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), and sperm retrieval procedures.

4. Donor Sperm:

Donor sperm is used in cases of severe male infertility to fertilize a woman’s eggs through intrauterine insemination or in vitro fertilization. Donor sperm can be obtained from sperm banks, where donors are screened and tested for quality and health. The donor’s identity is usually kept anonymous, but some couples may choose known donors.

Before using donor sperm, couples undergo counseling to discuss the emotional and ethical implications. The actual insemination process can be done through IUI or IVF. Using donor sperm can be emotionally complex, but it provides an opportunity for couples to conceive and have a child.

It is important to research the legal and ethical implications in their country or region before proceeding with donor sperm.

5. Genetic Counseling:

Genetic counseling is a service that can help couples dealing with male infertility caused by a genetic condition. During a counseling session, a trained genetic counselor will review the couple’s medical history and recommend genetic testing to identify any specific genetic factors contributing to the infertility.

The counselor can provide information about inheritance patterns and available reproductive options, as well as emotional support and resources. Genetic counseling helps couples make informed decisions about their family planning.


Understanding the causes of infertility in males is crucial for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Male infertility can be caused by various factors, including low sperm count, abnormal sperm morphology, impaired sperm motility, genetic factors, and other potential causes such as infections or hormonal imbalances. Seeking medical evaluation and diagnosis is essential for couples struggling with infertility. With advancements in medical technology and treatment options, many couples can overcome male infertility and achieve their dream of starting a family.

At Androcare Fertility Centre, we prioritize a comprehensive approach to evaluating male infertility. We strive to offer personalized care that addresses both the physical and emotional aspects of fertility challenges. Our goal is to support individuals on their journey towards parenthood with empathy and expertise.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards understanding and overcoming male infertility

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