Medical conditions and male infertility

There are several medical conditions that can cause male infertility. The good news is there may be treatment options available for some of these conditions. The following are some conditions that can affect fertility and what can be done to improve the chances of conceiving a baby.

Varicocele: This is a condition where swollen veins, similar to varicose veins, are present in the scrotum. Varicocele can affect fertility by causing damage to the testicle or reducing sperm production. Surgery to cut or bypass the vein sometimes helps improve fertility.

Cancer: Cancer and its treatment, including radiation and chemotherapy, can damage or kill sperm. The degree of this impact varies, but sometimes it is severe. The closer radiation treatment is to the testicles, the higher the risk of infertility. The first priority is to cure the cancer, even if doing so may cause infertility. Sperm production can return after cancer treatment, but it may take up to several years. A man can consider freezing his semen at a sperm bank or fertility centre before starting chemotherapy or radiation therapy. This way, even if sperm production does not completely return after cancer treatment, he and his partner can still use his stored frozen sperm to conceive a child.

Erectile dysfunction: Erectile dysfunction (difficulty getting an erection that is adequate for penetration) or other sexual problems such as premature ejaculation can often be treated using medications or behavioural therapy.

Spinal cord injury: Men may experience fertility problems after a spinal cord injury, including the inability to ejaculate, abnormal sperm production, and obstruction of the ducts that carry sperm throughout the male reproductive system. These men are still producing sperm, so they can still become fathers despite their injuries. Men can use devices to stimulate ejaculation, and doctors can use other methods to retrieve sperm for use with assisted reproductive technology.

Depending on what's causing the fertility problem, treatment options can mean medications or surgery. That's why it's important to find the cause – a proper screening and assessment by the doctor can reveal a potentially correctable medical condition. In many cases, treating the underlying medical condition improves fertility.

If the condition is not treatable or reversible, don't lose hope – if there is adequate sperm, assisted reproductive technology can be used to help a couple conceive.

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