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Infertility – the inability to conceive a child after one year of regular, unprotected intercourse – affects about 20% of couples, with 30% to 50% of cases stemming from male-related problems. However, a diagnosis of infertility is not necessarily a verdict of sterility: only 1% to 2 % of infertile couples are actually sterile, and half of those who seek help can eventually bear a child.
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Male infertility is most commonly caused by low sperm count, low sperm motility, malformed sperm or blocked sperm ducts. Temporary causes include prolonged exposure to heat or to chemicals or medications. Several diseases also are linked to male infertility, including colitis, diabetes, multiple sclerosis/spinal cord injury, mumps and cancer.
If a couple is unable to conceive after one year of regular, unprotected intercourse, both partners should see physicians.
Because evaluations of men tend to be noninvasive and easier than those of women, the male partner should undergo one first. This evaluation includes a complete history and physical examination, as well as other tests:
Treatment depends on the cause of infertility: