Understanding Male Infertility
Male infertility affects approximately 20-30% of couples. Here are some medical terms you may want to be aware of if you’re actively trying to conceive.
Azoospermia refers to a semen sample without any sperm. This may be the result of a lack of sperm production or it may be that the sperm is not being transported properly. Depending on the cause, treatment options range from medication to minimally-invasive procedures.
Congenital Bilateral Absence of the Vas Deferens (CBAVD)
With CBAVD, the two vas deferens, the part of the male reproductive system that transports the sperm for ejaculation, fail to form properly prior to birth. If the vas deferens are absent, there may be an opportunity to retrieve sperm from the body surgically. CBAVD accounts for approximately 1 to 2 percent of all infertility in men and can be the result of a genetic disease such as cystic fibrosis.
Hypospadias is a rare condition that refers to an abnormal, displaced urinary opening within the penis. Hypospadias is usually the result of a birth defect, and surgery is needed to correct this condition. This is usually performed during infancy.
Retrograde ejaculation is a condition where semen travels to and is discharged through the bladder rather than ejaculated from the penis. This condition can often be caused by medications, health conditions such as diabetes, or by surgery that affects the nerves or muscles that control the opening of the bladder. Men with retrograde ejaculation will often have a low volume and sperm count on a semen analysis. Retrograde ejaculation is usually diagnosed with a urinalysis and can often be corrected.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
STDs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, and infections of the male genitalia and male reproductive system can also cause infertility. These infections are often treatable with medication; however, treatment does not always reverse the damage that has already occurred and may affect fertility.
Varicoceles refer to enlarged varicose veins in the scrotum that prevent adequate blood flow or may cause reverse blood flow. Most men with varicoceles and infertility have abnormal semen analysis results, including low sperm counts or abnormally shaped sperm. Treatment options may or may not involve surgery.