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Causes of Male Infertility

The Center for Human Reproduction’s Dr. Vitaly A Kushnir discusses how male infertility can be caused by prostate cancer, testicular cancer, hormone imbalances, obesity, diabetes, and genetic abnormalities.

Infections are a common cause. If somebody has had a prior infection involving either the prostate or the testes, this can affect the sperm’s ability to either be produced or to be ejaculated from the body. So if somebody has such a history, they should seek evaluation fairly early on, and specifically mumps infections as a child, history of any STDs earlier in life, history of prostatitis, these would all be major risk factors. Men who have had prior cancer or any sort of, for example, testicular cancer or prostate cancer, this could be a major cause for infertility. Men who have had a history of un-descended testes and had to have surgery earlier in life can also experience infertility. There are many endocrine causes, as well. Men who have hormonal imbalances, whether it’s from obesity or from taking hormones because they are body building or because they have an autoimmune disease if they have a thyroid problem, for example, or a problem with their adrenal glands, or their pancreas like in diabetes, these can all be associated with male factor infertility. Also many men with infertility will have some kind of genetic basis for this infertility, and sometimes this is only discovered fairly late in the investigation after you start doing testing. They can have chromosomal problems or very subtle mutations in their Y chromosomes, so genetics is a major cause, as well. Another common cause of male infertility is presence of a varicocele. This is a dilated vein on the testicle that can change the temperature, and sperm production is a very temperature-sensitive process, so men who have these sort of varicose veins on their testicles called varicoceles can have problems with sperm production because of the excess heat from the varicocele.