perm Health: Testicular Failure
Testicular failure is one condition that may affect sperm health and lead to male infertility. There are different forms of testicular failure that may affect the male reproductive system and a variety of causes that may contribute to testicular failure. All of these factors may result in different conditions affecting sperm health. However, there are several infertility treatment options available to help relieve the symptoms of testicular failure and increase a couple’s odds of getting pregnant.
What is Testicular Failure?
Testicular failure is a general term describing a condition in which the testicles do not properly produce sperm or hormones. However, there are a number of underlying male fertility problems that may be diagnosed as the cause of testicular failure. The following are some conditions that may be affecting male fertility and contributing to testicular failure:
- chromosomal abnormalities
- testicular trauma
- testicular torsion (twisting)
- diseases or infections such as mumps, orchitis or testicular cancer
- undescended testicles at birth
- problems involving sexual maturation
- certain drugs or medications such as steroids or marijuana
- lifestyle factors
Lifestyle factors may affect testicular functioning and prevent the testicles from maintaining normal functions. Activities such as riding a motorcycle, for example, can increase the risk of testicular or scrotum injury.
When testicular failure results in the inability to produce proper levels of male hormones, the condition will likely lead to a diagnosis of hypogonadism.
Testicular Failure Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of testicular failure may include the following:
- low or lack of sex drive
- delayed puberty
- decrease in height
- enlarged breasts (gynecomastia)
- lack of muscle mass
- hair loss (usually in the underarms or pubic areas)
- infrequent need to shave
- small testicles
- presence of a tumor or mass near the testes
In addition, during examination, decreases in bone density or the presence of bone fractures may be noted as well as low levels of testosterone hormones accompanied by high levels of FSH and LH.
Testicular Failure and Sperm Health
Testicular failure is associated with three main fertility problems that may affect sperm health. These male fertility problems include the following:
- Azoospermia: this condition results from an absence of the cells necessary to help sperm divide and is also known as sertoli cell-only syndrome
- Maturation Problems: this refers to a condition in which sperm production begins normally, but is interrupted at some point during development. The resulting sperm that is present in the ejaculate will thus not be fully developed
- Hypospermatogeneses: this refers to a condition in which few or no sperm are present in the ejaculate as a result of low sperm production
Testicular Failure Diagnosis
Diagnosing testicular failure may involve a variety of male fertility testing procedures. Congenital testicular failure will typically be indicated by the presence of "ambiguous" genitalia at birth.
Fertility tests for the diagnosis of testicular failure may include the following:
- blood tests to evaluate levels of testosterone hormones, gonadotrophine, FSH and LH
- physical exam for signs of testicular atrophy or tumors
- semen analysis
Testicular Failure and Infertility Treatment
Depending on the particular fertility problem affecting male fertility, there are a variety of infertility treatments for testicular failure available. In cases where lifestyle factors such as drug or medication use are believed to be the cause of testicular failure, it may be recommended that lifestyle changes be made in order to improve fertility.
When an imbalance of hormones is the cause of testicular failure, testosterone replacement therapy may be recommended. However, when azoospermia, maturation problems or hypospermatogeneses are the causes of testicular failure, assisted reproductive technologies (ART) may offer the best fertility treatment option. Infertility treatment in these cases may include surgical sperm retrieval, ICSI and IVF.