Promising Treatments for Male Infertility

Most couples eager to start a family don’t imagine that they will have difficulty conceiving, but nearly 10 million Americans suffer from infertility. The term “primary infertility” is used to describe couples who fail to conceive after having unprotected intercourse for one year. It’s a stressful issue that affects both men and women. In fact, in 20 percent of all cases, infertility issues with the male are the sole cause for a couple’s inability to conceive, and a contributing factor in another 30 percent of cases—meaning men play a significant role in half of all infertility cases.

What causes male infertility? “There are several lifestyle factors and physical conditions that can contribute to infertility,” says Weber Chuang, M.D. a board-certified urologist and male fertility expert with USMD Men’s Health Center.

Without enough healthy and mobile sperm, chances for fertilization are greatly reduced. A semen analysis by a fertility expert can determine if a man’s sperm level falls within normal ranges for conception. Along with testing, there are proactive steps every man can take to protect his chances for healthy sperm production. “Avoid tobacco and limit your use of alcohol,” Dr. Chuang cautions. “These habits—along with the use of drugs such as marijuana and cocaine—can damage sperm. You should also avoid sitting in a hot bath or Jacuzzi because heat adversely affects sperm.”      

While lifestyle factors can contribute to male infertility, illness and certain health conditions are often a big barrier to conception. “Any time a man is ill—even if it is something as common as a cold, the flu or food poisoning—his sperm count may be lower for a time,” Dr. Chuang reveals. “Fortunately, it is reversible and his sperm count usually returns to prior levels within three months.”   

In addition, men with certain birth defects, chromosomal abnormalities, immunological issues and hormonal disorders may experience infertility. And obesity not only contributes to a man’s risk for diabetes, heart disease and cancer, it also increases their risk for infertility. Of course, serious illnesses such as cancer—along with the chemotherapy and radiation treatments used to battle cancer—are foes to healthy sperm production. Even varicose veins pose a threat. Yes, the malady most often thought of as an unsightly condition that mars the appearance of a woman’s legs actually contributes to male infertility.   

“Varicose veins can be found around the testes,” explains Dr. Chuang. “This condition is known as a varicocele, and it is a common cause of male infertility. Fortunately, it is usually treatable with surgery.”

While varicose veins may be easy to see, other causes of infertility are less obvious. That’s why it’s important to visit a male fertility expert if you suspect you have an issue. A complete physical and testing will help your physician determine if you are infertile and why. “Testing usually includes blood work to produce a detailed hormone profile and analysis of two semen samples.  A scrotal ultrasound may also be necessary,” Dr. Chuang says. “Once a diagnosis is made, you and your doctor can decide on the course of treatment that is best for you. The good news is there are a lot of treatment options. Nearly 90 percent of male infertility cases can be treated with medications to improve sperm count or surgery to repair reproductive abnormalities. You don’t have to live with infertility.”

If you are concerned about male infertility and would like to know more about treatment options, visit one of the board-certified urologists and male fertility experts at USMD Men’s Health Center. To schedule an appointment, call the USMD/UANT Men’s Health Center at 817-784-UANT (0818).  

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