Problems With Sperm Production
When sperm fails to be produced properly or at all, conception becomes virtually impossible. Reasons for improper sperm production vary. However, one of the main causes of infertility due to poor sperm production is varicocele.
It is estimated that as many as 40% of infertile men are affected by varicocele. Incidents of varicocele seem to be especially high with men experiencing secondary infertility. Varicocele is the presence of varicose veins around the testicles. It occurs when blood does not circulate properly out of the testicles. The increase in blood leads to a raise in temperature in the testicles. This causes abnormal testosterone levels which hinder the production and maturation of the sperm. Although varicocele can occur in both testicles, about 85% of the time it affects the left testicle.
While the majority of men are asymptomatic, in some instances a man may experience one or more of the symptoms associated with varicocele which include:
- Pain in the testicle
- A heavy feeling in the testicle
- Visible shrinkage of the testicle(s)
- An enlarged vein that is visible or found by touch
While large veins may be visible, medium sized veins can usually only be identified by feeling the area. Varicocele is often diagnosed by a doctor during a physical examination. However, smaller varicocele veins may require the use of a diagnostic device like an ultrasound. A sperm analysis may also indicate varicocele. Men affected by this type of varicose vein will usually produce sperm that is underdeveloped, damaged, dying or dead.
Treatment of varicocele depends on the severity of the veins. For men who have a mild case and are experiencing no symptoms, using an athletic support or wearing close-fitting underwear is usually sufficient to provide support to the scrotum, thereby managing the problem.
Surgical options are available for those men who are having pain, are experiencing infertility or have testicular damage caused by varicocele. Although a recurrence of the varicose veins will happen to approximately 5% to 20% of men, at least half the men who have surgery for varicocele are able to conceive a child within a year.
Certain infections can hamper sperm production in men. Contracting mumps after puberty may seriously affect a man’s ability to make sperm. The illness can destroy the sperm-producing cells in the testicles thereby hindering the production of sperm. In the majority of cases, only one testicle is affected. However, approximately 30% of men infected with mumps after puberty will suffer permanent sterility because of the illness.
Prostatitis, an infection of the prostate, can also affect the production of healthy sperm although this tends to only be temporary. With proper antibiotic treatment for the infection, prostatitis will clear up, allowing sperm production to return to normal.
Serious trauma to the testicles can permanently affect the production of sperm and possibly make a man sterile. Damage done through sports or by accident can lead to a rupturing of the vessels that supply blood to the testicles. This cuts off the oxygen supply to the sperm-producing cells, forcing them to die off. When a serious injury occurs to the testicles, immediate surgery is necessary to salvage a man’s ability to produce healthy sperm.
Additionally, surgery to correct an undescended testicle or repair a hernia may cause a reduction in blood supply to the testicles. This can also lead to damage of a man’s sperm producing capabilities.