Main causes of male infertility

Why can a man be infertile?


What is semen?

Semen is a viscous fluid very rich and complex components that allow nutrition and mobility of sperm.

Semen consists of sperm, which represent less than 10% of the total, and the seminal fluid that makes up 90% of ejaculate volume.

The importance of semen quality in male fertility

Sperm is produced in the seminiferous ducts of the testes.

Once produced, it is stored in the epididymis, a long narrow tube, located behind the testicle in the top of it. In the epididymis, during a period of 10 to 14 days, the maturation of sperm to become fertile takes place.

Semen quality is the main factor determining male fertility, since a third of male infertility is due to problems with sperm.

The epididymis is connected to the ejaculatory ducts through the vas deferens, tubes with strong muscles whose contraction produces the shipment of semen into the urethra.

Characteristics of seminal fluid

Seminal fluid is produced mainly in the seminal vesicles, glands that can produce 80% of it and contains mainly fructose, amino acids, protein, Vitamin C, phosphorus and potassium. It is interesting to appoint its contents in prostaglandins whose function is to prevent a woman’s body reject the sperm as something strange.

Another major portion of it is produced by the prostate and contains mostly citric acid phosphatase, and other minerals such as zinc, sodium, calcium, potassium, etc.

A smaller portion of this fluid is produced by the glands of Cowper and Littre and whose content is composed of mucoprotein whose function is to lubricate the urethra for the semen can slide more easily.

Main causes of male infertility

Among the major anomalies of the sperm that can cause male infertility we can mention the following:

  • The lack of sperm (azoospermia) or small amounts of them in the seminal fluid (oligozoospermia) ejaculation occurs in a volume of semen which typically ranges from 1.5 to 5 milliliters, but can reach up to 15 ml. Per milliliter there are usually between 50 and 150 million spermatozoa, so that, taking into account the total volume of an ejaculation, the total number of them can reach a staggering 500 million.

From a reproductive standpoint, semen is considered “normal” if it has a number of more than 20 million spermatozoa per milliliter. Numbers lying between 5 and 20 million are considered “subfertile.” When the amount is less than 5 million per milliliter is considered that the semen is “sterile.”

  • The lack of sperm motility (atenospermia): To be considered fertile sperm must have adequate mobility. The deposit of semen in the vagina of women sperm must move through the cervix towards the egg placed in the fallopian tubes. In order to move spermatozoa have a tail or flagellum which drive them. A semen containing enough sperm may be less fertile because the lack of motility of spermatozoa.
  • The abnormal shape of sperm (Teratozospermia): Defects in the head or tail of the sperm may be the cause of male infertility. It is considered that the total number of “abnormal” spermatozoa should not exceed 20 or 25%
  • Varicose veins in the scrotum (varicocele): 40% of cases of male infertility due to varicocele. The varicocele involves increasing the temperature of the testes leading to a decline in sperm counts.
  • Any event that prevents proper cooling of the testes influences male fertility. For example, wearing inappropriate clothing, such as tight jeans, working long hours sitting with resulting testicular compression, or to much time of the testicles in contact with a heat source or hot water, are causes that have been associated with decreased fertility since sperm is less able to move.

Other causes that can produce masculine infertility

  • Impotence: the problems of lack of erection or impotence can prevent the penetration of the penis into the vagina and the consequent emission of semen in it.
  • Premature ejaculation: in severe cases it can cause infertility because the semen is expelled before vaginal penetration.
  • Retrograde ejaculation: This is the redirection of the semen, instead of being expelled out through the urethra into the bladder. This is caused by abnormalities of the sphincter of the bladder, caused by nervous system disorders or prostate operations.
  • Hypospadias: the penis malformations make it nonfunctional.
  • Excessive accumulation of fluid in the testicles (testicular hydrocele)
  • Testicles that have not dropped enough to the scrotum (cryptorchidism)
  • Testes that have undergone some process of twisting or trauma.
  • Blocked seminal ducts. (Obstruction of the vas deferens)
  • Presence of testicular tumors.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases: Such as gonorrhea, genital herpes, syphilis, etc.
  • Other diseases: Prostatitis, mumps, thyroid problems, diabetes, Kallmann syndrome, absence of one or more pituitary hormones (hypopituitarism), increased blood prolactin (hyperprolactinemia), undeveloped male sexual characteristics (hypogonadism)
  • Emotional Problems: can lead to infertility by preventing poor sperm production in men. Stress produces an increase of the adrenalin levels that diminish the sperm production.
  • Toxic substances ingestion: Many pollutants are responsible for the lower quality of sperm. Studies in highly polluted areas demonstrate this assertion. The human exposure to radiation can also cause male sterility. The ingestion of drugs, certain medicines or chemicals can lead to a reduction of sperm

Alcohol, coffee or tobacco consumption can lead to a decrease in fertility. Alcohol consumption in men, increases the temperature of the testicles, reducing sperm motility. Similarly, the intake of foods containing caffeine can lead to the same consequences

  • Unknown Causes: There is 5% of couples that fail to conceive with no apparent cause to explain this infertility.

Semen quality and food

Recent studies suggest that semen quality is related to diet.

According to these studies the communities that use food high in antioxidants (vegetal natural foods) make the semen of their men show a higher quality than those communities that base their diets on foods of animal origin.

Since fruits and vegetables, very rich in vitamin C, carotenes, folic acid, bioflavonoids, are the foods that contain more antioxidants, a diet such as the Mediterranean, which builds a very high percentage of their intake is more advisable than other diets, such the Nordic or Central European ones, which mainly consume lots of fats and proteins.

punto rojo More information on infertility.

Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

22 September, 2020

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