Infertility: Problems With the Man's Reproductive System

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Topic Overview

The most common cause of male infertility is low sperm count. Absence of sperm in the semen is less common, affecting 1 out of 100 men and affecting 10 to 15 out of 100 infertile men.footnote 1

Causes of sperm count problems include:

  • Hormonal problems in the testicles or pituitary gland. The pituitary gland releases hormones that stimulate the testicles to produce testosterone.
  • Testicular injury or failure, either present at birth (congenital) or associated with radiation or toxic chemical exposure.
  • Cancer treatment with certain kinds of chemotherapy or radiation.
  • Antibodies that attack sperm and that also may be present in semen. Sperm antibodies sometimes develop when a man's sperm has been exposed to his immune system (outside of the testicles). This may happen after a vasectomy, an infection, or an injury to the testicles.footnote 2
  • Drug use (some prescription medicines, and marijuana and tobacco use).
  • Structural problems. These include:
    • A varicocele in the testicles.
    • Blocked ejaculation due to a surgical vasectomy.
    • Absence of a vas deferens (a birth defect that may be associated with the cystic fibrosis genes).
    • Retrograde ejaculation (the ejaculation of semen into the bladder rather than out through the penis).
  • Chromosomal problems (such as Klinefelter syndrome).
  • Genetic problems.

See a picture of the male reproductive system.

Related Information

  • Fertility Problems

References

Citations

  1. American Society for Reproductive Medicine and Society for Male Reproduction and Urology (2008). Evaluation of the azoospermic male. Fertility and Sterility, 90(Suppl 5): S74–S77.
  2. Fritz MA, Speroff L (2011). Male infertility. In Clinical Gynecologic Endocrinology and Infertility, 8th ed., pp. 1249–1292. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerFemi Olatunbosun, MB, FRCSC - Obstetrics and Gynecology

Current as ofFebruary 20, 2015