London: Apart from genetic and physiological reasons that cause a low sperm count, environmental and lifestyle factors are increasingly contributing to this problem. A very low sperm count is also called oligospermia. Having a very low sperm count can make it harder to conceive naturally. The Bourn Hall study identified five main reasons for male infertility:
Stress: Chronic stress or prolonged mental illness adversely affects male fertility. Stress interferes with testosterone produced in the testes, a hormone necessary for sperm production.
Obesity: Improper lifestyle, unhealthy eating habits and lack of exercise have resulted in the fact that 36 percent of men in Abu Dhabi and Dubai alone are overweight. Obese men have worse sperm quality as compared to men of healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can also cause hormonal changes that reduce fertility.
Smoking: With each cigarette, over 7,000 chemicals are inhaled into the body, many of which are highly toxic. In men, smoking causes significant damage to sperm and leads to an increase in genetic abnormalities. Sperm takes three months to develop which means that the most important time for men to improve their health and quit smoking is in the three months leading up to conception. 91 percent of the men interviewed, agreed on the negative effects of passive and active smoking on fertility; opinion split over the impact of increasing age.
Low sperm count: More than 90 percent of male infertility cases result from low sperm count, which can be a direct result of an unhealthy diet, excessive intake of protein shakes, etc.
Prolonged sitting: Sitting and watching television for extended hours is negatively linked to sperm count drop and quality of sperm. Prolonged sitting overheats the testicles, which in turn results in lower sperm production.
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Other Causes of Male Infertility
Apart from the environmental and lifestyle factors, male infertility is also caused by diseases such as diabetes, HIV, thyroid problems, Cushing syndrome, heart attack, liver or kidney failure, and chronic anaemia.
Certain types of medications to be taken to treat some of these can impair sperm production, says Dr Styliani Andronikou, chief embryologist, Dubai Health Authority’s Dubai Gynecology and Fertility Centre (DGFC).
Repeated infections from sexually transmitted diseases (i.e. Chlamydia trachomatis or gonorrhea) can cause scarring and block sperm passage.
Other infections that may affect fertility include prostatitis (inflammation in the prostate gland), orchitis (in the testicle), seminal-vasculitis (in the glands that produce semen), or urethritis (in the urethra), perhaps by altering sperm motility.
Even after successful antibiotic treatment, infections in the testes may leave scar tissue that blocks the epididymis. Treatments for cancer such as chemotherapy and radiation can damage sperm quality and quantity, causing infertility. The closer radiation treatments are to reproductive organs, the higher the risk for infertility. There is also some evidence that male infertility is itself a risk factor for testicular cancer.