The medical conditions that damage your sperm

Abnormal semen may be causing fertility problems

Male infertility is often caused by one of three factors: low sperm count, poor sperm motility/progression, abnormal sperm shape. All three of these affect the regular production of semen in the male body and may be the cause of the problems you are experiencing when trying to conceive.

Medical conditions associated with male fertility

Low sperm count (oligozoospermia)

What is it?

Probably the most well-known cause of male infertility, low sperm count may be caused by a hormone imbalance, genetic condition, problems with the function of the testicles, sexually transmitted infections or strong drugs (both legal and illegal). It is a relatively common cause of infertility for couples and can be identified by a routine semen analysis.

Can it be treated?

Improving your diet and lifestyle, taking regular exercise and giving up smoking can all help to improve your sperm count. But there are also alternative treatments that can be used to help you conceive. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is a process whereby a female egg is injected with a single sperm to help make fertilisation as direct as possible. This should be recommended to you if you and your partner have been trying to conceive (without success) for at least two years. As a couple, using donor sperm is another option that you may wish to consider. This option has become much more popular over recent years and is a viable treatment alongside IVF and ICSI. You will be offered guidance and support throughout the process and may find regular consultations extremely useful at all stages of treatment.

Testicular damage

What is it?

Any previous damage to the testicles may affect how well they produce and store sperm. There are a number of reasons why your testicles may have damaged, such as infections, illnesses (such as cancer), inherited conditions, undescended testicles or accidents caused playing sport or taking part in other activities.

Can it be treated?

Surgery may help to repair testicular damage in some cases, and it may be possible to extract sperm to be used at a later stage during IVF, but if irreparable trauma has been caused we would recommend looking into your different fertility treatment options. You can find out more about fertility treatments here.

Poor sperm motility or abnormal shape

What is it?

If your sperm has poor motility or is not the right shape to swim and fertilise an egg, it will affect your attempts to conceive. Problems with sperm shape and motility can be identified through a sperm analysis though there is no definitive cause for their occurrence. Previous trauma or illness and lifestyle choices are likely to be the key factors.

Can it be treated?

Improving your diet, lifestyle and overall health may improve the quality of your sperm but there are no guarantees. A fertility treatment may offer the most successful chance of conceiving.

Obstructive azoospermia (lack of sperm)

What is it?

A lack of sperm may be caused by either damage to the testicles, which stops normal sperm production, or by a blockage of some kind which prevents sperm from taking its normal route to ejaculation.

Can it be treated?

If the testicles have been affected by a treatment of some kind or overuse of illegal drugs, there may be no way to reverse the damage done. If a lack of sperm is caused by an internal blockage of some kind, it may be possible to rectify this with surgery. It may also be possible to extract the sperm and use it during ICSI treatment.

Ejaculation problems

What are they?

The most common form of ejaculation disorder is premature ejaculation, which causes men to ejaculate too early during sexual intercourse. Premature ejaculation is rarely a barrier to conception but it can cause intimacy issues between couples, which will clearly affect your attempts to conceive naturally. Delayed ejaculation is a much less common condition that causes the opposite problem – it takes male sufferers far too long to ejaculate, which can make sex tiresome and predictable. Retrograde ejaculation occurs when sperm enters the bladder instead of coming out through the urethra. Only a small amount of semen will be produced during ejaculation, although sufferers still experience orgasm and often do not feel any physical discomfort.

Can they be treated?

Ejaculation problems can be treated with both medication and therapy. If the cause of the ejaculation problem is physical rather than mental, then medication may be more suitable. For psychological issues such as premature and delayed ejaculation, a form of therapy is likely to be more effective.

Worried about your fertility? Speak to a consultant

If you are suffering some of the symptoms shown above or you are worried in any way about your fertility, contact us today to arrange an appointment with one of our fertility consultants.