Male infertility: common illnesses that can cause it
Male infertility affects at least three out of every ten couples who turn to assisted reproduction clinics. This, among other reasons, is why both members of the couple must always be evaluated for fertility issues.
The male’s situation must always begin with a complete overview of his medical history. Illnesses during childhood, adolescence and adulthood; history of sexual development; surgeries; alcohol, tobacco and drug habits… all of these factors must be investigated along with a study of semen parameters via a sperm analysis.
The sperm study or semen analysis, according to the World Health Organization’s governing guidelines in 2010, includes a study of the general characteristics of the sperm sample, sperm count and concentration of spermatozoids, motility and morphology.
Male fertility on the decline
Nowadays, male sperm quality is not the same as it was a few decades ago and many studies which indicate a decline in male fertility have been published.
Among the many factors that have been detected are lifestyle changes and environmental contamination, both of which cause oxidative damage to sperm DNA, thus reducing sperm quantity and motility while increasing morphological defects.
Genetic, endocrine, metabolic, infectious and immune conditions also lead to sperm and fertility issues. Genetic causes can be found in approximately 10% of males with severe sperm issues, such as azoospermia (absence of spermatozoids in semen), cryptozoospermia and oligoasthenozoospermia, diagnoses that are an indication for additional studies such as karyotyping and the Y‑chromosome microdeletion study, among others.
Common illnesses that lead to male infertility
There are many illnesses that can result in sperm and fertility issues. Here we are going to explain the most common ones.
It is estimated that this condition affects between 10 and 15% of the male population, and it is an important cause of infertility.
Varicocele is an enlargement of the veins of the testicles which causes the temperature of the testicles to increase and negatively impacts how they function.
When the male embryo develops, the testicles must descend from the abdomen to the scrotum, as their temperature needs to stay cooler than the body’s in order to function properly.
If the testicles only descend partially or don’t descend at all, this is called cryptorchidism and can be unilateral or bilateral. Cryptorchidism, which exposes the testicles to a higher temperature than that of the scrotum, affects the production and functioning of spermatozoids.
Orchitis is the inflammation of one or both testicles. The cause of this condition can be viral (as with the mumps), or can be the result of trauma, an immune condition or a bacterial infection.
Apart from these three conditions, we must also take into consideration hormonal alternations such as hypogonadism, testicular cancer (as well as chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy treatments), and other factors such as the use of anabolic steroids and some antibiotics which can lead to abnormal sperm study results.
Male fertility matters, and it matters a lot, as you can imagine. Even in cases of the conditions mentioned above, thanks to the advances in different assisted reproduction techniques such as ICSI for in vitro fertilisation nowadays, it is possible to help many males with fertility issues become fathers.