Causes of Male Infertility
Infertility in men is usually caused by an underlying medical condition which can be made worse by certain lifestyle factors.
The most common conditions associated with male infertility are varicocele, followed by hormone imbalance and infection of the male accessory glands (prostatitis) or the genitourinary tract. The good news is that there are treatments available for these conditions.
If you are unwell, one of the first things to be affected is your fertility, so if you have been diagnosed with a systemic disease, such as cancer, diabetes or a heart condition for example, this may be a contributing factor. Genetic causes and obstruction of the reproductive tract are less common.
All of these conditions may affect your semen parameters, and some may cause sperm DNA damage irrespective of semen parameters, which will also hinder your ability to conceive a healthy pregnancy.
While lifestyle factors are very important, they are not usually the only cause of male infertility, although smoking, recreational drugs, binge drinking alcohol, excessive caffeine intake and testicular heat stress may have a significant impact. Highly processed foods and fizzy drinks have also been shown to affect sperm quality, while healthy nutrition and a Mediterranean diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables with lots of oily fish and limited red meat is recommended for optimal sperm health.
Exposure to toxins, certain medications and chemotherapy are likely to harm sperm, sometimes irreversibly. More recently, studies have shown that anabolic steroids and use of protein shakes for improving strength performance have a significant detrimental effect on sperm quality.
Azoospermia describes a condition where there are no sperm seen in the ejaculate. This condition occurs in approximately 1 in every 100 men and ranges between 10% to 15% of infertile men. This may be caused by an obstruction in the genital tract, preventing sperm from travelling out of the testes. If there is no obstruction, the cause of azoospermia may either be due to the complete absence of sperm cells, or failure of sperm development. Treatment for azoospermia may involve hormone replacement or testicular sperm retrieval.