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What is male infertility: causes and treatments for men who suffer

Male factor infertility is the primary cause in about 30% of all infertility cases.
/ Source: TODAY

Male infertility is the inability to get pregnant as a result of a specific problem relating the the male's sperm.

According to the American Urological Association, male factor infertility is the primary cause in approximately 30% of all infertility cases.

Dr Brian Levine, founding partner and practice director of CCRM New York, a leading fertility clinic in midtown Manhattan, joined TODAY Parents to answer commonly asked questions about male-factor infertility.

"Male infertility is common," he said. "There is not enough dialogue about the importance of healthy sperm when discussing infertility. We need to broaden the conversations to include preventative measures that men can take to help protect and preserve their sperm and ability to have children in the future."

What is male infertility?

According to the CDC, "infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant after one year (or longer) of unprotected sex." In those women over the age of 35, that interval is shortened to 6 months of trying to conceive. Male infertility specifically refers to a specific problem resulting in low or poor quality sperm production, blockages in the urinary tract that prevent the passage of sperm, or a host of chronic medical conditions that impact the form and function of sperm.

What are the symptoms of male infertility?

Unfortunately, the only common symptom, despite multiple causes, of male infertility is the inability to conceive a child. Frequently, there are no other obvious signs or symptoms. With that said, any man with sexual performance function issues, pain or swelling of testicles, or changes in their health status should seek a professional evaluation.

What are the causes of male infertility?

Male infertility is incredibly complex, as proper fertility requires producing healthy sperm, having the sperm being carried in adequate semen, and having sperm that can "swim" and function in fertilizing an egg. With that said, the most common issues are varicoceles, which are swollen veins that drain the testicle which raises the temperature of the testicle(s), sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea, which can damage the epididymis or testicles, hormone imbalances, and functional problems such as sexual performance, or erectile disorders.

Are there factors that hurt male fertility?

We know that obesity, alcohol and tobacco smoking are the three most harmful risk factors for male infertility. In addition, exposure to chemicals, toxins, [and/or] radiation, and having other male relatives with male infertility are also risk factors.

What are fertility treatments for men who suffer?

Men can be prescribed many of the medications that women take to help produce more sperm. Sperm can also be surgically extracted from the testicle in the office setting or in an operation if a deep surgery is required. Varicoceles are routinely repaired in the outpatient surgical setting, and sperm counts recover within three months of the surgery.

Is male infertility common?

It has been estimated that about one in twenty men have suboptimal semen (sperm) parameters causing infertility. In fact, it has been estimated that male factor infertility is just as common as female factor infertility when couples seek help from a fertility specialist.