Fertility in men generally starts to reduce anytime from the age of 35 years to 45 years. This is a normal biological process that happens as men age. All men are different and can experience a reduction in their fertility at different ages depending on the possible different causes of infertility. There are common signs and symptoms to be aware of if men suspect that they are infertile or notice a reduction in their fertility.
What is Male Infertility?
Infertility in females is a well-known concept with most of the population, whereas male infertility is more of an unknown concept to most. Infertility in men is defined as when a male partner is unable to impregnate a female partner after a year of unprotected and regular intercourse. As infertility can occur in both female and male partners, both should be investigated when trying to conceive.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Male Infertility
- Sexual dysfunction commonly occurs and can include erectile dysfunction, lower libido and a decrease in the amount of ejaculation.
- Semen that contains a low amount of sperm including a count of less than 15 million sperm per millilitre or less than 39 million sperm per ejaculation.
- Recurrent urogenital infections present with symptoms such as a burning sensation after urinating, urine with a strange scent and low-grade fever.
- Lower testosterone levels lead to abnormal growth of breasts and decreased growth of facial hair.
- An uncomfortable sensation like pain or a lump within the testicle area.
Causes of Male Infertility and Its Signs
The causes of male infertility can vary from a testicular injury to an increase in age, but the most common causes attributed to male infertility are endocrine-related disorders, genetic disorders, idiopathic causes, external trauma and sperm transport disorders.
Endocrinological disorders such as congenital GnRH (gonadotrophin-releasing hormone) deficiency occur when there is a lack of coordination between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland and GnRH. They can also lead to a loss of smell. Hyperthyroidism has been known to alter the function of the testes and can cause a low sperm count and a decrease in the volume of semen.
Genetic mutations can cause very low spermatogenesis while idiopathic causes are prescribed to normal semen parameters whilst the male stays infertile. Trauma to the testicles such as a sports injury or malformation after an accident can cause a lower sperm count and lead to infertility. Malignancies such as adrenal tumours can hinder the production of testosterone and influence a male’s fertility.
Certain medications such as exogenous testosterone steroid supplements cause a decrease in the natural levels of testosterone influencing the fertility of men. Other medications such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), better known as certain types of antidepressants, can reduce sperm count and libido.
Possible Treatment Options
Non-pharmacological options that can help boost testosterone levels and improve sperm count include training such as weight resistance or cardiovascular exercises. Maintaining a healthy balanced diet can also contribute to a healthy sperm count, including ceasing smoking and minimising alcohol consumption. Prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as gonorrhoea.
Depending on each individual’s clinical picture, various interventions can be implemented such as hormone therapy increasing and leading to optimal testosterone levels, surgery to reconstruct any abnormalities or extract malignancies and medications to help and relieve erectile dysfunction.
Difference Between Sperm and Semen
Semen is a seminal fluid that is used to transport sperm and includes the necessary chemicals and nutrition for the survival of the sperm. Sperm is a very small cell that is responsible for the fertilisation of a female ovum and causing an embryo to form. Thus, the semen can be seen as the vehicle and the sperm as the passenger.
When Should I Go For a Doctor’s Appointment to Test My Fertility?
When you have noticed that you and your female partner are struggling to conceive while having unprotected intercourse for longer than a year regularly or when you notice any symptoms out of the ordinary such as testicular pain or a lower amount of ejaculation.
What to Prepare Before I Go For My Doctor’s Consultation
It is important to be prepared prior to seeing your healthcare provider by ensuring you can provide all the necessary information such as medical history, medicine you are currently taking, procedures you have had done in the past and any conditions that you have been diagnosed with. Make sure you make a list of all the symptoms that you are experiencing and ask any questions that you are wondering about.
How to Test Sperm Count and Fertility?
After an appointment with the doctor, a semen analysis will be performed by ejaculating into the provided cup whereafter the monster will be sent to the laboratory where they will analyse the semen based on the quantity and quality of the sperms as well as the amount of sperms present within a certain amount of millilitre semen.