Azoospermia: Everything You Need To Know About This Condition

by Nick Swanson

Azoospermia

Millions of couples become parents every single year, giving birth to a new life and experiencing the magic of becoming a parent. While a lot of babies are born each year, making millions of new parents, there are quite a lot of couples who are struggling to become pregnant and experience this magical moment where they bring a new baby into the world.

This can be quite unfortunate for a couple who are trying to reproduce, and may also cost them a lot of money since several tests are often required in order to determine where the problem lies and why the couple is not able to become pregnant.

There are numerous conditions that can affect both a man and a woman’s fertility. Sometimes, the problem may be with the man and at other times with the woman. The man is responsible for the sperm, which is fertilized in the female body.

While this may sound fairly simple, there are actually a significant number of factors involved in fertility – and a problem with any of these factors can cause the pregnancy to become something that seems completely impossible.

Today, we want to take a look at one particular disorder that causes problems with fertility. The disorder we would like to discuss in this post is known as Azoospermia and only affects men.

When a man develops this fertility disorder, they may not be able to conceive successfully and becoming a parent may feel like a distant dream that would not be able to come true. Treatment options and alternative methods of conception is, however, available to men who suffer from this unpleasant disorder.

We will take a look at what Azoospermia is, what causes this disorder, what symptoms may signal the presence of the disorder and also discuss the treatment options that men have available to them should they be diagnosed with the condition.


What are the Importance of Sperm in Reproduction?

Let’s start by discussing why sperm is important in the reproduction cycle since Azoospermia is a disorder that causes issues with a man’s sperm.

It is already relatively common sense that sperm is essential for reproduction, and that a woman is unable to become pregnant without sperm, but how and why this fact is true may not be perfectly clear to all individuals.

Fertility Authority[1] explains that the process of conception – where a man ejaculates in a female and causes pregnancy – is very complex, and, as we have explained previously, there are a large number of different factors that play a role when it comes to a woman becoming pregnant.

Once a man ejaculates in a woman, his sperm enters the female body and needs to go on a complex “journey” in order for pregnancy to occur. First, the sperm has to break through the cervical mucus of the female’s body wherein the ejaculation has occurred; then the sperm has to travel through the uterus.

The sperm then enters the female’s fallopian tubes and meets an egg in this particular tube. After meeting this egg, the sperm needs to penetrate through a coating that protects the egg, and also penetrate the inner membrane of the egg.
After all of this has occurred, the sperm is finally able to fertilize the egg is has penetrated; thus potentially leading to a successful pregnancy test.


Azoospermia: An Overview of This Fertility-Related Disorder

Azoospermia Overview
We have taken a look at why sperm (healthy sperm, specifically) plays an important part in reproduction, and how a healthy sperm cell is able to successfully fertilize an egg; thus causing the pregnancy to be possible. Now, we would like to turn our focus toward the particular disorder we will be covering in this article – Azoospermia.

We would like to provide a comprehensive overview of this disorder, as well as take a look at what a man’s options are should he be diagnosed with this disorder that can make reproducing extremely difficult – and sometimes even virtually impossible.

Cleveland Clinic[3] explains that Azoospermia is a condition where the seminal fluid of a man does not contain any sperm. There are many cases where the man’s semen may still look normal, but in reality, the semen does not contain any sperm cells; thus the man would not be able to conceive successfully.

For this reason, Azoospermia may be one of the most unpleasant conditions to be diagnosed with for a man due to the effects this disorder has on their fertility.

We should note that infertility amongst men account for approximately 40% of cases where a couple is unable to conceive due to fertility issues. The remaining 60% accounts for women.

When it comes to Azoospermia, approximately 1% of the worldwide male population is estimated to suffer from this particular condition. When we look solely at men who are considered to be infertile, approximately 10% to 15% of these men suffer from Azoospermia.

These statistics proof that Azoospermia is not the most common type of disorder that causes infertility amongst men, but still affects a large number of men; thus men should be more aware of this issue and realize what it could mean should they be diagnosed with Azoospermia after seeing healthcare professional when fertility seems to be an issue in their efforts to become new parents.


Potential Causes of Azoospermia

The first step to better understanding Azoospermia is to learn about the potential causes that may lead to sperm being absent from the seminal fluid when a man ejaculates.

This can help a man understand why they may be experiencing this disorder and will also be helpful in providing a man with an overview of what they can expect regarding the treatment of the disorder that is causing them to find it difficult to reproduce.

According to WebMD[3], to truly understand what causes Azoospermia, it is important to start by looking at the particular types of Azoospermia, since each of these has their own particular causes.

The particular types of Azoospermia that can cause sperm to become absent from the seminal fluid of a man include:

Pretesticular Azoospermia

Pretesticular Azoospermia
This is a particularly troublesome type of Azoospermia since the testicles in men with pre-testicular Azoospermia is considered to be normal.

Unfortunately, however, the testicles of a man with this Azoospermia disorder is unable to produce sperm. For this reason, the man would not be able to reproduce successfully since sperm is required for male fertility.

This particular form of Azoospermia is considered to be extremely rare but is still possible. In some cases, men may experience pre-testicular Azoospermia after they have undergone chemotherapy. This type of Azoospermia can also develop when a man has low levels of certain hormones in his body.

Testicular Azoospermia

This type of Azoospermia occurs when the testicles have been damaged. The damage that occurred in the testicles causes problems with the body’s ability to produce healthy sperm cells; thus leading to no sperm is present in the man’s seminal fluids. There are numerous causes for the damage that can be dealt with the testicles and lead to this problem.

Some potential causes of testicular Azoospermia include an infection that develops in the reproductive tract, including urethritis or epididymitis, as well as injury directly to the groin area. Certain illnesses amongst children can cause the testicles to become swollen and damage them in the process.

Cancer that affects the testicles, as well as receiving certain types of treatment, such as radiation therapy, may also cause testicular Azoospermia. It should be noted that Klinefelter’s syndrome, as well as some other genetic conditions, have also been found to contribute to this disorder.

Post-Testicular Azoospermia

The most common form of Azoospermia is post-testicular Azoospermia. In this case, the testicles are normal and sperm production is also normal. Even though sperm is produced normally by the testicles, there is some factor that keeps the sperm from being released together with seminal fluid during an erection.

Several causes have been identified to contribute to post-testicular Azoospermia. A relatively common cause is a blockage that occurs in the particular tubes that are supposed to carry the sperm from the man’s testicles toward their penis. Should this be the case, then the man may be diagnosed with obstructive Azoospermia.

Undergoing a vasectomy is also known to cause post-testicular Azoospermia. In addition to these causes, there is also a sexual dysfunction, known as retrograde ejaculation, which causes this particular type of the disorder.

With retrograde ejaculation, sperm is not pushed out of the penis during ejaculation but rather pushed upward into the man’s bladder.


What are the Symptoms of Azoospermia?

Symptoms of Azoospermia
There are no obvious symptoms that may cause a man to suspect that he has Azoospermia, except for the obvious – which is the fact that conceiving would not be successful, no matter how much the man tries.

Not being able to conceive successfully does not automatically mean that a man does have Azoospermia, which is why a visit to a healthcare professional is very important in order for some tests to be performed.

It should also be noted that not all the cases where pregnancy does not seem to occur are related to infertility in the man, but in many cases, it could be related to the woman’s fertility as well.


How Azoospermia is Diagnosed?

Before a healthcare professional or family planner will be able to provide a man or couple with options regarding what they can to do become pregnant when fertility issues seem to be standing in their way.

Since there are quite a large variety of factors that may affect infertility, and the issue may lie with either the man or the women, or in some cases both partners, it is important for several tests to be conducted in order to determine who is experiencing the issues with their fertility, and what is causing the issues experienced.

Should the healthcare professional find that the fertility issues lie with the man, then several tests may be performed on the man to determine the particular issues regarding his fertility? One of the tests will include taking a semen sample from the man and doing tests on this sample.

A laboratory will be requested to determine the sperm count in the man’s semen, as well as look at his sperm quality. When the laboratory finds that there is no sperm present in the man’s semen, then he may be diagnosed with Azoospermia.

Additional tests are sometimes required in order to identify the particular type of Azoospermia that the man is suffering from, which will provide the healthcare provider with an idea of how they can go about treating the fertility-related problems the man is experiencing.


What are the Treatment Options for Men Diagnosed with Azoospermia?

Treatment Options for Men Diagnosed with Azoospermia
Once diagnosed with Azoospermia, it is important for a man to realize that this does not necessarily mean he will never be able to reproduce and become a parent. The first step before a treatment plan can be compiled for a patient is to determine what type of Azoospermia the man has developed.

This will have a significant impact on what particular treatment options could be made available to the man if any at all. There are, unfortunately, some cases where the condition is not treatable and fertility cannot be restored to a level where conceiving is possible.

In order to determine why a man is experiencing Azoospermia, some tests may need to be conducted. These tests will usually be utilized in order to determine if a genetic factor is behind the condition that the man has been diagnosed with, and whether an obstruction is present that is causing a blockage in the tube that should carry the sperm from his testicles toward his penis.

When genetic factors are the cause, the treatment options that are available to a man may be very limited. Should it be discovered that the man’s testicles are not producing an adequate amount of sperm, then hormone therapy may be suggested with the hopes of increasing sperm production; thus causing sperm to become available during ejaculation.

Obstructions are often the cause of Azoospermia, which is one particular form of this disorder that is often treatable. Since there are numerous factors that may lead to such an obstruction, it is important to note that treatment may not always be possible.

Surgery can sometimes be helpful in removing the blockage; thus allowing for sperm to be moved from the testicles to the penis without any obstructions. In some cases, however, sperm can only be extracted and then implanted into the woman through a medical procedure.


Outlook for Azoospermia Patients

The outlook for patients diagnosed with Azoospermia can be quite disappointed in many cases, but there are a significant number of cases where the outcome can be positive as well. It should be noted that Azoospermia is not a deadly disease, but rather a disorder that leads to fertility issues.

A patient’s outlook really depends on the type of Azoospermia he has been diagnosed with since certain types of this disorder has a higher level of success when it comes to treating the condition. There are cases where treatment may not be possible, but alternative options are.

In such a case, a man may still be able to become a parent, but just not through sexual intercourse. In Vitro Fertilization is one particularly popular method for a man to impregnate a woman when he is experiencing issues with his fertility, such as when diagnosed with Azoospermia.


What are the Prevention of Azoospermia?

Prevention of Azoospermia
Preventing fertility issues is the most effective strategy that can be utilized in order to avoid being diagnosed with a condition such as Azoospermia. There are numerous methods a man can exert in order to help improve his overall well-being, and to benefit his sperm quality, motility and health.

When a man adopts a healthy lifestyle, and implement certain techniques in his lifestyle, he may keep his sperm healthy, ensure he is fertile and avoids problems that may interfere with his ability to conceive successfully.

Here are some interesting facts about sperm that you may find useful should you wish to prevent fertility-related issues from wreaking havoc on your dreams of becoming a parent:

  • Food has an important part to play in the production of sperm in the male body. According to Natural Fertility Info[4], one particular important nutrient to obtain from food sources is omega-3 fatty acids. This compound is rich in DHA, which has been scientifically proven to provide improvements in several qualities that make sperm healthy and capable of fertilizing a woman’s eggs.

    Furthermore, increased levels of DHA causes sperm to break through the protective coating of the egg within the woman’s body more easily since the compound helps sperm release more enzymes that are responsible for breaking down the protective barrier.

  • Regular ejaculation is essential for healthy sperm. Not ejaculating on a frequent basis causes a build-up of oxidative stress. This occurs due to a reduction in the turnover of sperm. Several toxins, leukocytes, and reactive oxygen substances also accumulate in the sperm when it is collected within a man’s gonads for an extended period of time. This, in turn, causes sperm to become less healthy and less fertile.
  • Testicles are not the same temperature as the rest of the male body, but rather approximately at a seven-degree Fahrenheit temperature lower than the other parts of the body. For sperm to be healthy, temperatures should not be too high, as heat is known to damage sperm.
  • In fact, a particular method of contraception (not considered safe and wise – this should be noted) is to heat the testicles to a relatively high temperature. Approximately 108-degree Fahrenheit is usually the goal temperature.

    Smoking Cigarettes Harm

    • Many lifestyle habits have a detrimental effect on sperm quality and health. Smoking cigarettes are known to have the most significant effect on fertility amongst men. In addition to smoking have an effect on sperm quality and overall male fertility, alcohol usage is also known to affect fertility amongst men, especially excessive alcoholic usage.
    • While coffee has several health benefits to contribute to the human body, men should try to limit their consumption of this popular hot beverage as it seems like a coffee can also reduce fertility. One or two cups of coffee are considered to be okay, but it is recommended that a man should limit his coffee to less than three cups a day, especially if he is planning to conceive.
    • A report posted on BBC News[5] explains that a recent study found that exercise has a positive effect on sperm health. More specifically, they found that men who participate in physical exercise frequently have a higher sperm count as compared to men who do not exercise on a regular basis.

    Read Next: Asthenozoospermia: What is it & How to Diagnose Asthenozoospermia?


    Conclusion

    Family planning is a wonderful time in the lives of a couple, but there are many issues that can pose risks and problems in the process of reproduction, becoming pregnant and even during pregnancy.

    For this reason, it is often recommended that both the man and the woman active in the relationship to seek a medical examination from a healthcare professional before proceeding with conception.

    This will help to determine if any existing health problems may pose a risk not only to the pregnancy but also to the ability of both the man and woman to reproduce successfully. Fertility plays a significant part in allowing a couple to become parents, and there are a variety of factors that can have a detrimental impact on the fertility of both parties involved in the pregnancy.

    In this post, we have taken a comprehensive look at a particular disorder that affects the fertility of men, known as Azoospermia. This condition refers to a case where a man has no sperm count in his ejaculation, which means he is completely infertile and would not be able to reproduce successfully.

    Prevention is the key, wherever possible, but treatment options are available that may assist a man with improving his fertility. In cases where fertility cannot be improved, alternative methods of conception may also be utilized to successfully become pregnant and give the man an opportunity of becoming a parent.

    Image Credits
    Feature image: Shutterstock.com
    In-Post Image: Shutterstock.com