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What is male infertility?

John K. Jain, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)

Of all infertility cases, nearly half are the result of female factor infertility, and half are the result of male factor infertility. Male infertility may include a range of issues such as: abnormal sperm, low sperm count, genetically mutated sperm, a complete absence of sperm, or sexual dysfunction.

Male fertility is evaluated with the use of the semen analysis. This test primarily evaluates the semen for sperm count, motility (how they swim) and morphology (how the sperm are shaped). Men with semen analysis abnormalities should be evaluated by a qualified practitioner as it may be a sign of other health problems. 

Once evaluated, male infertility may be treatable depending on the severity of the infertility. Sperm quality may be improved by lifestyle changes such as limiting time in hot baths and alcohol intake or by discontinuing certain drugs (testosterone) or supplements. 

To treat mild semen abnormalities intra-uterine insemination, or "IUI," can be used to concentrate the best sperm for injection directly into the uterine cavity. Additionally, a procedure called intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is sometimes used to inject healthy sperm directly into eggs to enhance fertilization. 

For men who have an absence of sperm completely, or have undergone a vasectomy, it is sometimes possible to surgically retrieve sperm from the epididymis (where sperm are stored before ejaculation) or a biopsy of the testes can yield functioning sperm.

Men with sexual dysfunction, such as erectile dysfunction, can often be treated through prescription medication.  

Sperm donation is sometimes the final option for men who do not produce any sperm or for those with genetically abnormal sperm.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.