Azoospermia, sometimes referred to as ‘no sperm count’, is a medical condition in which a man’s semen contains no sperm.
Sperm is normally produced in the testis. From there it transits into the epididymis – a structure that surrounds the testis – and then up a tube called the vas deferens.
During ejaculation, semen will carry the sperm through a small tube called the ejaculatory duct and out through the urethra (water pipe). When a man is a suffering from azoospermia, sperm is never ejaculated.
But what are the reasons for azoospermia? How does the condition affect a couple’s chances of getting pregnant? And is there a cure? In our latest blog post, we explain why you may be suffering from azoospermia and what the condition may mean for you.
Types of azoospermia
There are two dominant types: obstructive azoospermia, and non-obstructive azoospermia.
Obstructive azoospermia is a form of the condition where sperm is produced inside the testicle but a blockage somewhere in the reproductive system prevents the sperm from being ejaculated.
Non-obstructive azoospermia is almost the opposite of this. All of the reproductive tubes are unblocked, but the problem lies in the production of sperm. Either no sperm is being produced, or production is at a very low level, and the sperm that is created very rarely makes it all the way out of the testicle.
What causes azoospermia?
In regard to obstructive azoospermia, this can be caused by genetic issues, infections of the male reproductive system, for example the testicles or prostate, and most importantly, trauma.
Sustaining injury to the spine, pelvis, or sexual organs can result in an obstruction in the flow of sperm.
With non-obstructive azoospermia, a number of things can cause the condition, such as genetic or hormonal problems. But, a number of lifestyle choices can have a huge effect.
Medicines, such as steroids, and illegal drugs cause problems with sperm production, and can also affect their quality and mobility.
Can I opt in to azoospermia treatment?
There are treatments for the condition, and these differ depending on what type of azoospermia you’re facing.
For obstructive azoospermia, your doctor can attempt to remove the source of the blockage during a surgical procedure, removing the obstruction and allowing the sperm to be ejaculated normally.
For non-obstructive sufferers, the best azoospermia treatment is sperm retrieval. This involves a simple procedure, using a fine needle and syringe to extract sperm either from the epididymis. If that fails, a biopsy of the testicular tissue will be taken.
Once the sperm retrieval has taken place, the sample can be used as part of an IVF or an ISMI treatment, in order to achieve pregnancy.
If you’re concerned because you and your partner haven’t conceived yet and you think you may be suffering from azoospermia, please get in touch with one of our fertility experts, who will be happy to help you.