One of the leading causes of male infertility is structural problems infertility. This can include blockage or damage to the testes, tubes, or ducts which are all part of the male reproductive system.
These structural problems can cause several different fertility issues such as reduced sperm production or no sperm production at all. Structural damage can be caused by injury or past surgery to the reproductive system.
Duct Blockage and Infertility
Sperm needs to travel through several tubes and ducts before it can be ejaculated. If there is any type of blockage or damage to any of these tubes it can be difficult if not impossible for conception to occur.
This obstruction to the tubes and ducts is known as “obstructive azoospermia”. Blockage can happen for a number of different reasons such as scar tissue after surgery to this area of the body or an infection.
Scar tissue can build up adhesions that block the sperm and prevent it from meeting up with semen to be ejaculated. Infections that are centered in the urogenital tract can cause scarring to the tubes and ducts.
This scarring can block some or all of the sperm. Sexually transmitted infections can also cause damage.
Men who have azoospermia blockage can undergo surgery in an attempt to reverse any blockage and damage that has occurred. This includes men who’ve had a vasectomy and now want it to be reversed.
It’s important to note that if the damage is too extensive not even surgery will be able to repair the blockage. In these cases, the sperm can be retrieved then using IVF (in vitro fertilization) in order to achieve conception.
Congenital Defects and Structural Damage
Some men will be born with structural complications to their reproductive system. Many times there will a part of the male reproductive system that hasn’t developed or formed correctly. In these cases, fertility problems may become an issue.
Some of the more common congenital structural damage includes the following:
- CAVD (congenital absence of the vas deferens): CAVD is a rare condition in which a man is born without having a vas deferens. In this case, the production of sperm is normal but because the vas deferens tube has not formed, the sperm is unable to reach the semen. Men who have CAVD will need to have their sperm retrieved surgically since there is as yet no way to repair the vas deferens.
- Hypospadias: The urethral opening, also known as the meatus, is normally located on the tip of the penis. In this structural complication, the opening is found on the underside of the penis. This condition is usually mild enough so that it doesn’t interfere with sexual intercourse, but in some cases, the defect can be severe enough to interfere with the male reproductive and sexual functions. If it’s severe enough this structural problem can be surgically treated. In most cases, surgery is performed before puberty and ideally when the male is under the age of 18 months.
- Undescended Testicles: While in the uterus the testicles are formed in the abdomen and then they descend into the scrotum. In about 4 percent of births, the testicles will fail to descend. In most of these cases, the condition will correct itself. If this condition isn’t corrected before puberty it can lead to male infertility in later years.
There are some congenital structural problems that can’t be treated and that can cause fertility problems. This includes Kleinfelter’s syndrome.
Men with this disorder will have testes that are too small to work normally. Another structural complication that can be corrected is Steroli cell Only syndrome.
With this condition, there are no sperm-producing cells, which means that even if a man has semen to ejaculate there will be no sperm available to fertilize the egg.
In the case of both of these structural problems, Kleinfelter’s syndrome and Steroli Cell Only syndrome, the only way a man will be able to father a child is through IVF and ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) using donor sperm.
Dealing with Male Infertility
Male infertility is the result of several different types of disorders in the male reproductive system such as the above-mentioned structural problems infertility.
Your doctor and an infertility specialist will able to accurately identify and treat your fertility problems so that you can go on to conceive with your partner.
If you and your partner are having difficulty conceiving you’ll both undergo testing to determine the cause of your infertility.
Your doctor will do a thorough physical exam and then schedule a sperm analysis so that your sperm can be evaluated for any abnormalities.
Your doctor may also order blood tests to check on any hormone imbalances that can be stopping you from getting your partner pregnant.
After this first series of tests have returned results without any indication of fertility issues, the next step is testing for structural problems that affect fertility.