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Home > Services > Men's Health > Men's Health Conditions > Infertility in Men

Infertility in Men

Watch this video about infertility in men
Watch  Ryan Smith, MD, discuss fertility treatments.

Men are considered infertile if they:

  • Produce too few sperm cells
  • Produce sperm cells of poor quality
  • Have chronic problems with ejaculation

Causes of Male Infertility

Portions of the brain called the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, as well as male reproductive organs such as testes affect fertility in men. Problems in any of these areas may decrease fertility.

In about half of the cases, a cause cannot be found. Some factors that can contribute to infertility include:

  • Genetics diseases, such as Klinefelter syndrome and Sertoli-Leydig cell syndrome
  • Exposure to some workplace chemicals or heavy metals (primarily lead and cadmium)
  • Tobacco use, marijuana use
  • Varicose veins of the testes (varicocele)
  • Abnormal hormone levels
  • Infections
  • Physical abnormalities
  • Cancer
  • Medications
  • Obesity
  • Chronic diseases, such as sickle cell anemia
  • Excessive physical activity
  • Anti-sperm antibodies

Infertility Risks

Nucleus factsheet image
The Male Reproductive System
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

These factors increase your chance of developing infertility:

  • Exposure to toxic chemicals or heavy metals, such as lead
  • Liver disease
  • Nicotine use, long-term marijuana or cocaine use, steroid use, opiate use and certain prescription drug use
  • Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) in the womb
  • Chemotherapy
  • Malnutrition
  • Overheating of the testicles
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Klinefelter syndrome
  • Kartagener syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Brain tumors, pituitary tumors
  • Radiation treatment
  • Past infections, including sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), mumps and prostatitis
  • Birth defects of the male reproductive system, including history of undescended testicles
  • Obesity, high body mass index

Diagnosing Male Infertility

The following tests can evaluate your fertility:

  • Blood tests — to find out the levels of different hormones that play a role in sperm development, including:
    • Testosterone
    • Luteinizing hormone
    • Follicle stimulating hormone
    • Prolactin levels
  • Semen analysis — examined for:
    • Amount of semen
    • Consistency of semen
    • Number of sperm
    • Movement of sperm
    • Shape of sperm
    • Clumping of sperm
    • Presence of substances other than sperm in the semen
  • Other tests:
    • Ultrasound 
    • X-rays 
    • Fertilization tests
    • Post-coital test

Fertility Treatments

Increase your chances of having a child: Take preventative, healthy steps

Fertility Medication

Your doctor may prescribe medication if you have a hormonal imbalance. In combination with vitamin E, it may help increase sperm count and improve sperm movement.

Surgery for Infertility

Surgery can help conditions like varicocele that can affect fertility. Treatment of a varicocele does not always restore fertility.

Surgery may also be done to reverse a vasectomy. This reversal is not always successful.


Call 434.243.3675.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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