WHAT IS AZOOSPERMIA? WHAT ARE THE TREATMENT OPTIONS?
By: Dr. Sophia N Kamath, GarbhaGudi IVF Center, Electronic City.
Azoospermia is the complete absence of any sperm in a man’s semen. It is found in 1-2% infertile male population.
Normally, a male’s testicles produce sperm which gets mixed with fluid produced by other parts of his reproductive system to become semen. If a man has azoospermia, he may still produce apparently normal semen, but it will not contain any sperm which is required for reproduction.
Causes of Azoospermia:- There are two causes of azoospermia: Obstructive azoospermia and Non-obstructive azoospermia.
- Obstructive Azoospermia: This is a condition where sperms are still produced in the testicles, but a blockage in the genital tract is preventing sperm delivery into the ejaculate. This condition affects 7-50% of azoospermia cases. Obstructive azoospermia can be caused due to infections, injuries, prior surgeries or genetic causes.
- Non-Obstructive Azoospermia: In this, there is no or inadequate sperm production in the testicles. Few potential causes of non-obstructive azoospermia include:-
– genetic mutations
– Y-chromosome deletions
– radiation (including cancer treatment)
– use of certain medications, illegal drugs or excessive alcohol consumption
– hormonal imbalances
– varicoceles (enlarged veins)
Diagnosis and Treatment options:-
Azoospermia is diagnosed when no sperm can be detected under a high-powered microscope on two separate occasions. Since the cause of azoospermia can be varied, there will be different treatment options, depending on the cause. Scrotal scan along with several tests will be run to determine if there is any sperm cell production, if there is, the sperm may be extracted for IVF.
- Obstructive azoospermia may be treated with surgery to remove the blockage or else sperms are retrieved using surgical techniques and use assisted reproductive technology to conceive.
- Cancer patients can opt for semen freezing before they undergo radiation or chemotherapy.
- In the cases where lifestyle factor is an issue, such as medication usage or hormone imbalances, treatment can be as simple as switching medications or addressing hormone problems. Varicoceles can be treated using a low-risk surgery called varicocelectomy.
- For men with genetic causes of azoospermia treatment may be limited to non-existent, depending on the type of genetic defect. In such cases, sperm donation may be the most viable option for couples who wish to conceive.
If you think you are struggling with male infertility, talk to a fertility specialist or a urologist. Fortunately, if you’re trying to conceive, azoospermia isn’t the end of the world, there are many treatment options available for men with this condition to become biologic fathers, so it certainly doesn’t mean there’s no hope.