Male sterility? What it really means to be infertile and the most common causes
It is more common than you imagine! Did you know, perhaps, that 15% of men in Spain are sterile? Although fertility is not a matter of gender (in our country 17% of the population suffers from infertility), different studies have determined that men suffer more from this problem in our sexual function than women.
What does it mean to be sterile in man?
Defining what male sterility is is quite easy. By definition, infertility in men consists of the inability to father a son/daughter due to different factors, including ejaculation abnormalities , health problems that affect sexual function , or external factors.
What symptoms does male sterility cause?
Apart from the inability to father a fetus , male infertility does not usually present with any other symptoms that could be visible to the naked eye. However, it brings with it different symptoms that, in turn, can be the cause of the problem. Among the most common symptoms are usually:
- Difficulty ejaculating or low amount of ejaculation (due to obstruction)
- Decreased sexual desire or erectile dysfunction
- Pain , swelling or lumps in the area of the testicles
- male gynecomastia
- Sparse facial and body hair (due to imbalanced testosterone levels)
- Low sperm count per milliliter of sperm
How is male sterility detected?
If after a year trying to engender a son/daughter without results or if you suffer from any of the symptoms previously described, see your trusted doctor. After several fertility tests , including the seminogram and the exploration , you will be able to find your problem or the cause that produces it.
In this way, thanks to the seminogram , the specialists will evaluate the quality , quantity , and morphology of the stermatozoa .
What are the most common causes of male infertility?
Among the most common causes of male infertility are abnormalities in the ejaculation process, health problems that directly affect the sexual function of men, or different external factors:
1. Abnormalities in the ejaculation process:
- Difficulty producing sperm: During puberty the body begins to produce testosterone and the male reproductive organs are formed. If at this stage at least one of the testicles does not form properly, it will not be able to function properly, so it will be unable to produce sperm for the future.
- Problems in the ducts that carry the sperm: once the testicles have already produced the sperm , the ducts must carry it to the semen , so that they are mixed and ejaculated through the penis. If any of these tubes does not work properly, the sperm will not get to mix with the semen.
- Low amount of sperm in the semen: Once both the sperm and the semen have been mixed and ejaculated through the penis, the amount of sperm in the fluid can be counted . If in the count this figure is lower than usual in men; that is, 15 million sperm for each milliliter of semen, the chances of being able to fertilize a woman's egg will decrease considerably
- Sperm functionality and motility problems: If sperm movement or function is not normal, it may not reach or penetrate the woman's egg.
2. Health problems that affect the sexual function of men:
- Varicocele: the testicle drains through the veins . A man with a varicocele will have inflammation or swelling of these veins , which will cause abnormal blood flow , resulting in decreased sperm quantity and quality .
- Different infections: There are many types of infections that can interfere with the sperm production process . However, almost none of these infections are usually chronic. Among the most common infections that can affect men's sexual function are gonorrhea or HIV , for example.
- Ejaculation problems: Some men experience what is known as retrograde ejaculation . In this type of case, when the man has an orgasm , the semen is diverted towards the bladder , instead of going out through the penis. This health problem can be caused by different situations, among which are diabetes or bladder, prostate or urethral surgery, among many others.
- Tumors : Tumors (both malignant -causing cancer- and benign ) can affect a man's sexual function directly. As a result of them, the male genital organs can be affected.
- Hormonal imbalances: male sterility can not only be due to problems in the testicles , but hormones are an essential part of this. Therefore, if the man has a problem that affects the hormonal systems of his body (such as the thyroid, the adrenal glands or the pituitary gland, for example) or that affects the normal levels of testosterone that he should have, the sterility can be one of the consequences.
- Antibodies that attack sperm: in our body there are immune system cells called 'anti-sperm antibodies' that unintentionally confuse sperm as invaders that are harmful to our body. Therefore, they attack them, trying to eliminate them.
- Undescended testicles: During fetal development , male fetuses have their testicles descended from the abdomen into the scrotum. However, there are times when the testicles (one or both) do not descend during this stage, affecting the man's fertility .
- Chromosomal defects: there are hereditary diseases that drastically affect a man 's sexual function . Among the most common are cystic fibrosis , Kallmann syndrome or Klinefelter syndrome (when a man is born with two X chromosomes and one Y instead of one of each). These types of diseases cause the male genital organs to develop abnormally.
- Defects in the tubules that transport sperm: men can suffer an injury to any of the tubes that transport our sperm . In these cases, sterility would be the most common symptom.
3. External factors:
- Radiation: Excessive exposure to X-rays can greatly decrease sperm production in a man 's body .
- Excessive heat in the testicles: the production and function of spermatozoa are directly linked to the temperature of the scrotum , according to different studies. Therefore, it is not recommended that a man excessively use saunas or jacuzzis, among other situations that cause a lot of heat in the testicular area .
- Alcohol consumption: alcohol and testosterone in our body are directly linked, therefore, in addition to lowering levels of the quintessential male hormone , it can also cause erectile dysfunction or reduced sperm production .
- Weight: Being overweight is not only bad for general health, but it can also affect the sexual function of the person who suffers from it.
- Stress, anxiety and flu-like processes: although in most cases sterility is a chronic problem in men , it does not always have to be that way. As a result of stress and anxiety , the man can be subjected to a pressure that can cause his sterility during that time. In the same way, in flu processes they also affect male fertility , since when body temperature increases with fever, sperm production decreases . In both cases, although the cause is different, in 3 months the man will be able to recover his full fertility after a complete process of spermatogenesis .
- Previous surgeries: different surgeries such as vasectomy or on the scrotum and testicles , for example, can prevent your sperm from reaching semen , causing male sterility forever.
- Certain medications: cancer treatments , testosterone replacement medications , or anabolic steroids can trigger sterility in men , as they affect sperm production .
- Drug use: as I have mentioned before, anabolic steroids , for example, affect male fertility . In addition, the use of cocaine and marijuana can cause temporary sterility in men.
It may have surprised you that age is not among the most common causes of male infertility, right? This is because, unlike in the case of women, men do not see the quality of our sperm affected in an extreme way as a result of age. That is to say; Although sperm quality and seminal volume can drop and the increase in oxidative stress can increase after the age of 40 , these are usually fairly mild symptoms compared to the cases in women.
(And no, laser hair removal on your testicles doesn't make you sterile, either.)
Who does not like to be informed about everything that can affect us around our masculine condition ? It never hurts to know what causes or factors can affect our sexual function (just as it never hurts to have regular medical check-ups , both for fertility and for sexually transmitted diseases ).