Male Infertility - Sperm Impairment

When a couple decides to take the huge step towards having a family, as a rule, nobody expects problems. You just do what comes naturally and voila - in nine months you have a baby. But it isn't always that easy, especially for the nearly 20 percent of couples who are dealing with infertility.

Once thought to be a woman's problem, infertility in men has come more and more into the light and along with the issues of infertility, light is being shed on causes and treatments.

What Causes Sperm Impairment?

A number of things can cause impairment of sperm count or motility (the ability to swim or move about), or impaired ability to fertilize the egg. Most commonly noted causes are low or abnormal sperm production or function, impaired or inadequate delivery of sperm, lifestyle issues and environmental concerns.

In order for the egg to be fertilized by the sperm, the sperm must be shaped properly and able to get to the egg both quickly and accurately. If the morphology (shape and structure) of the sperm is not normal or the motility is impaired, the sperm may not be able to get to or penetrate the egg.

Sperm Concentration

Sperm concentration is another consideration when dealing with male infertility. Normal sperm concentration is considered to be around 20 million sperm per millilitre of semen. Subfertility is the state where there is a count of 10 million or fewer sperm per millilitre. In some cases there is an increased sperm count of 40 million sperm per millilitre indicating hyper fertility and conversely, there are men who do not produce any sperm at all - although such cases are rare.

Varicocele and Failure of Testes to Descend

Varicocele is the presence of a varicose vein in the scrotum which may prevent the normal cooling process of the testicles. Since the sperm is highly sensitive to heat, this impairment leads to reduced sperm count and motility. When one or both testicles fail to descend from the abdomen into the scrotum during fetal development, they are exposed to higher internal body temperature which, in turn can affect sperm production.

Men Have Hormonal Problems Too

Hormonal problems for men include testosterone deficiency, called male hypogonadism. When this happens it creates disorders with the testicles and ultimately affects sperm production. There is a syndrome called Klinefelter's syndrome which is a genetic defect. Instead of having one X and one Y chromosome, a man has two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome. The result of this syndrome is the abnormal development of the testicles causing low or absent sperm production and the possibility of low testosterone.

The Effects of STDs on Sperm Production

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are often the cause of male infertility. Such STDs as Chlamydia and gonorrhoea can cause scarring and block sperm passages. Inflammatory infections such as mumps, if caught during the teen years, can impair sperm production. Other inflammations such as prostatisis, urethra or epididymis are also capable of altering sperm motility.

And Sometimes They Just Don't Know

In some cases no cause for low sperm count is found. If sperm concentration is lower than 5 million per millilitre of semen, genetic problems could be the cause. Blood tests are able to reveal abnormalities.

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