What causes male infertility?
A man’s inability to fertilize an egg can result from low sperm count, abnormal sperm function, or blockages that prevent the delivery of sperm. Several medical and environmental factors can contribute to one or more of these fertility issues, including:
- Erectile Dysfunction (ED): the inability to achieve or keep an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse.
- Varicocele: a reversible condition characterized by swelling of the veins that drain the testicle.
- Infection: which can interfere with sperm production, cause scarring that blocks the sperm’s route, or negatively impact sperm health.
- Retrograde Ejaculation: when semen enters the bladder during orgasm instead of being directed out of the penis.
- Dysfunctional Immune System: wherein antibodies mistake sperm as “invaders” and attacks with the intent to eliminate the foreign body.
- Tumors: including cancerous and non-cancerous growths that can have a direct impact on reproductive organs or hormones related to reproduction.
- Cancer Treatments: such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy, which can affect fertility.
- Hormone Imbalances: including thyroid and adrenal gland issues or conditions that affect the hypothalamus or pituitary glands.
- Genetics: such as Klinefelter’s syndrome, in which a male is born with two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome rather than one of each.
- Undescended Testicles: when one or both testicles fail to drop from the abdomen into the scrotum.
- Environmental Factors: such as chemicals, heavy metal exposure, radiation exposure, and elevated temperatures, which can impair sperm production and function.
How will Dr. Lowe assess male infertility?
Dr. Lowe will begin treatment with a complete medical history and physical exam. Next, he will recommend appropriate testing. The two most common tests for male infertility include:
Semen Analysis: Patients are asked to abstain from sexual activity for 2-3 days prior to the test, during which the male will provide a semen sample. Experts will examine the sample under a microscope to look for healthy sperm count, movement, and sperm shape.
Hormone Test: Hormone tests involve a basic blood test that allows Dr. Lowe to look at testosterone and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels.
If an underlying medical condition is suspected, additional tests may be necessary, including:
- Transrectal Ultrasound
- Testicular Biopsy
- Chromosome Testing
How will Dr. Lowe treat male infertility?
In as many as 30% of cases, the exact cause of male infertility remains unknown. However, that doesn’t mean pregnancy is impossible. Sometimes, treating an infection, prescribing medications or hormone treatments, or counseling can improve sperm count and performance. In more complex cases, such as varicocele (swelling of the veins that drain the testicle), surgery can correct the condition and restore reproductive function. Dr. Lowe also performs vasectomy reversals—a highly specialized surgical procedure that few urologists have the training and experience to perform—and microdissection TESE, which allows Dr. Lowe to recover viable sperm for IVF treatments for use in Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) treatments, such as in-vitro or intracytoplasmic sperm injection. Thanks to remarkable advances in modern medicine, we only need a few viable sperm to increase the possibility of a pregnancy.