About 35 percent of fertility cases can be traced to a problem in the man, and an additional 20 percent to a problem in both partners. The following is a partial list of risk factors that may contribute to male infertility:
- Being a smoker: Smoking impairs the ability of sperm to move (its motility).
- Using alcohol: Having more than one or two drinks a day can affect the quality and quantity of sperm, lower testosterone levels, and contribute to erectile dysfunction.
- Taking illegal drugs: Cocaine or heavy marijuana use may temporarily reduce the number and quality of sperm by as much as 50 percent.
- Taking prescription drugs: Some medications, such as those for ulcers or psoriasis, can slow or prevent the production of sperm.
- Being exposed to toxic substances or hazards on the job: Chronic exposure to elements such as lead, cadmium, mercury, hydrocarbons, pesticides, radioactivity, and X-rays may have an impact on sperm count and quality.
- Exposing genitals to heat: The frequent use of saunas, steam rooms, hot tubs, whirlpools, and hot baths can temporarily impair sperm production and reduce sperm count.
- Having certain conditions or illnesses: Men with a history of prostatitis or genital infection, mumps after puberty, surgery on their hernia, undescended testicles, or scrotal varicose veins (varicocele) may also experience a decrease in fertility.
Sources: MayoClinic.com; RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association; The Couple's Guide to Fertility by Gary S. Berger, MD, Marc Goldstein, MD, and Mark Fuerst (Broadway Books, 2001); National Women's Health Information Center
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