Common causes of nfertility in men

IN the traditional African setting, bearing children was considered part and parcel of life and a man was expected to marry a woman and bear many children, who would be expected to extend the family names.

In the event that the couple could not have children in the first few months of marriage, family and in-laws would ask them what they were waiting for.

Should they get to their second wedding anniversary without a baby in tow, the man would get pressured to look for another wife who would be able to bear him children.

Quite often, lack of children was blamed on the infertility of the woman, who would then be shunned and it was unheard for a man to be termed as infertile.

But with the advancements in fertility health, it has become clear that both partners play a role in the siring of children and these advancements have also been useful in identifying why some men are infertile.

However, study shows that up to 15 per cent of couples are infertile and this means that they aren’t able to conceive a child, even though they’ve been engaged in frequent and unprotected conjugal mates for a year or longer. In over a third of these couples, male infertility plays a role. Male infertility is due to low sperm production, abnormal sperm function or blockages that prevent the delivery of sperm.

The list highlights illnesses, injuries, chronic health problems, lifestyle choices and some other factors likely to play a role in causing male infertility.

The main sign of male infertility is the inability to conceive a child and there may be no other obvious signs or symptoms, however, an underlying problem such as an inherited disorder, a hormonal imbalance, dilated veins around the testicle or a condition that blocks the passage of sperm causes signs and symptoms.

Although most men with infertility do not notice symptoms other than the inability to conceive a child, signs and symptoms associated with male infertility should be understood and include: having problems with sexual function like, difficulty with ejaculation or small volumes of fluid ejaculated, reduced sexual desire, or difficulty maintaining an erection, pain, swelling or a lump in the testicle area, recurrent respiratory infections, inability to smell, abnormal breast growth, decreased facial or body hair and/or other signs of a chromosomal or hormonal abnormalities among others.

Problems with male fertility can be caused by a number of health/medical issues like; varicocele which is a swelling of the veins that drain the testicle as well as infections like epididymis (epididymitis) or testicles (orchitis) and some sexually transmitted infections, including gonorrhea or HIV.

More medical causes include; ejaculation issues, antibodies that attack sperm, cancers and nonmalignant tumors, undescended testicles, hormone imbalances and chromosome defects among others.

Environmental causes also play an important part in male infertility and includes; overexposure to certain environmental elements such as heat, toxins and chemicals which reduce sperm production or sperm function.

Other specific causes include extended exposure to industrial chemicals; exposure to lead or other heavy metals; exposure to radiation can also reduce sperm production, though it will often eventually return to normal.

Note that with high doses of radiation, sperm production can be permanently reduced; elevated temperatures as well impair sperm production and function.

Frequent use of saunas or hot tubs may also temporarily impair your sperm count as well as sitting for long periods, wearing tight clothing or working on a laptop computer for long stretches of time may increase the temperature in your scrotum and may slightly reduce sperm production.

Lifestyle factors that cause infertility include drug use like cocaine or marijuana, which can temporarily reduce the number and quality of your sperm as well, drinking too much alcohol can lower testosterone levels, cause erectile dysfunction and decrease sperm production.

Liver disease caused by excessive drinking also may lead to fertility problems and other causes like tobacco smoking, emotional stress, depression and obesity can impair fertility in several ways, including directly impacting sperm themselves as well as by causing hormone changes that reduce male fertility.

Risk factors linked to male infertility include smoking tobacco; excessive consumption of alcohol, using of certain illicit drugs, being overweight, being severely depressed or stressed, having certain past or present infections, being exposed to toxins overheating the testicles as well as being born with a fertility disorder or having a blood relative with a fertility disorder and having certain medical conditions, including tumors.

Understand that what you eat can also affect your fertility and in fact, research shows that specific fertility foods may help increase or impair your fertility issues.

For instance, recommended foods include oysters beef, poultry, dairy, nuts, eggs, whole grains and beans contain more zinc, which helps increase semen volume and sperm motility.

The antioxidants found in fruits and veggies (like dried fruits, cranberries and collard greens) may also help protect sperm from cellular damage and keep them strong and speedy.

Vitamins E found in nuts, seeds and vegetable oils; and C in orange juice, tomatoes, grapefruit and broccoli, among other foods increase sperm count and movement.

If you’re looking for one power veggie to make a staple in your diet, serve up a sweet potato: It’s packed with vitamins C, E and folate; Pomegranate juice and pumpkin seeds can also boost sperm quality.

However, avoid junk food, high-mercury fish like swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, marlin, big eye tuna, shark and caffeinated drinks and alcohol as well as avoiding some known risk factors by changing the lifestyle-related habits.

Treatments for male infertility may be based on the underlying cause of the problem, or in the case of no identified problem, evidence-based treatments that improve fertility may be recommended.

To understand that most cases of male infertility are curable, but our first order is to prevent the known risk factors and seeking medical attention on time! Let’s keep healthy.

  • Racheal Masibo, Assistant Lecturer at St John’s University of Tanzania (SJUT)-School of Nursing, Dodoma. Email: rackelmasibo@yahoo.com Mobile: 0717513598

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