Common Problems: Causes of Male Infertility

These are the common causes of male infertility.

Abnormal Sperm Parameters

Abnormalities in the semen are primarily due to a defect in sperm production by the testicles. Spermatozoa (sperm) are relatively fragile cells and are easily damaged by a number of environmental and life style habits. Sperm production and function can be affected by increased body temperature resulting from illness, prolonged periods of sitting in hot tubs, or tight clothing. Strenuous repetitive exercise, such as long distance bicycling or marathon running, can also alter sperm production. Significant weight loss or gain can also play role in male infertility. Drugs, alcohol and nicotine can decrease male fertility. It’s ideal to minimize intake or avoid it altogether while attempting to get pregnant.

Many Genetic Diseases

Can impair male fertility, such as Klinefelter’s syndrome and cystic fibrosis. Exposure to environmental toxins, such as heavy metals and other chemicals, can also reduce male fertility.

Infections with microorganisms, such as chlamydia, mycoplasma, or niesseria gonorrhea, can also decrease fertility and are effectively treated with antibiotics. In certain rare cases, a male will produce antibodies to his own sperm. His immune system mistakes his sperm for an invading pathogen and tries to destroy them.

Hormonal Imbalances

Such as hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, can be one of the causes of male infertility. In this rare condition, gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH), which is released from the hypothalamus, is deficient. GnRH controls the process leading to the production of testosterone and other reproductive hormones. Diseases of the pituitary gland also can lead to deficiencies of FSH and LH. These hormones are necessary for sperm production.

A varicocele, an enlargement of the veins to the testes (spermatic cord), may be present. The varicocele impairs the blood flow needed to cool the testicles, thus raising the temperature of that testicle. A varicocele may be accompanied by pain and often can be treated surgically by an urologist.

Retrograde ejaculation occurs when sperm is propelled backwards into the bladder rather than ejaculated through the penis. This condition can be caused by certain medications, previous surgery, spinal cord disease, diabetes, and other factors. Sometimes, it can be treated by removing the causative medication or by surgery.


The absence of sperm in the ejaculate (azoospermia) may be due to an obstruction at the level of the vas deferens, epididymis, or even at the level of the testes. It may also be due to bilateral congenital absence of the vas. Some men might have testicular failure, which is the failure of production of sperm. This may be the result of a chromosomal disorder or previous infections such as the mumps. It may also be associated with the history of undescended testes.

Antisperm Antibodies

Some instances of male infertility can be attributed to anti-sperm antibodies. This is an immunological response whereby the male’s body attacks the sperm which affects fertility. The antibodies may prevent the sperm from being able to properly travel through a woman’s cervical mucus, impair the sperm from fusing to the egg, and/or inhibit the sperms ability to penetrate the egg. Some men are more at risk of developing antibodies than others.

These causes may occur following reversal of a vasectomy or other surgery on the male genitals and may also be related to previous infections or injury.