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Male Infertility Terms

Male Infertility Terms:

Asthenospermia: poor motility of sperm.

Azoospermia: complete absence of sperm.

Clomiphene citrate: a commonly used fertility drug in women, occasionally prescribed for men with poor sperm quality. The drug may work by increasing testosterone levels to improve sperm. Unfortunately, it only works in 40 percent of all cases.

Cryptorchidism: testicles that are not descended into the scrotal sac.

Donor sperm: sperm that has been donated (known or anonymously). This option is considered in cases of men with no sperm or very few sperm. Commercial sperm banks screen prospective donors using a battery of genetic tests. Prospective donors also are screened for sexually transmitted diseases including HIV. Physical, medical and personal characteristics are provided to help match various traits.

Electroejaculation: electrical stimulation of nerves that control ejaculation. Used to obtain semen from men with spinal cord injuries.

Epididymis: the collection of tubes that store sperm after they have left the testicle but before they have entered the ejaculatory duct (vas deferens), where sperm mature and acquire motility and fertilization potential.

Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH): in males, a pituitary hormone that stimulates testosterone production in the testicle to help mature sperm.

Hypospadias: a structural abnormality of the penile shaft resulting in an opening on the underside. Abnormal urine flow is a common indicator of this condition.

Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI): process in which sperm is injected into an oocyte using micromanipulation equipment. Useful in cases of very few sperm, surgically removed sperm or sperm that are unable to fertilize.

Impotence: inability to maintain an erection.

Oligospermia: less than 20 million total sperm.

Oligoasthenospermia: poorly moving and low numbers of sperm.

Microdeletion y chromosome: an area of the y chromosome that is missing or partially missing. This condition can cause low sperm counts and/or male infertility, and can be inherited by a male offspring.

Prostate gland: a male gland supplying part of the fluid for sperm transport. Infections of this gland may decrease sperm quality (prostatitis).

Retrograde ejaculation: a clinical condition in which sperm are not ejaculated in a forward direction and therefore reflux into the bladder. This can occur despite a normal sensation of ejaculation. This condition can be caused by a variety of factors, including diabetes, surgical damage to nerves that lead to the bladder neck and side effects of various medications (e.g. anti-hypertensives such as alpha blockers). Exposure to urine is highly toxic to sperm. Alkalinization of the urine with sodium bicarbonate can help to protect the sperm.

Semen: the fluid that provides nutrients, as well as a transport medium for sperm. It comes from seminal vesicles, prostate and glands adjacent to the urethra.

Semen analysis: analysis of the semen for sperm number, appearance (morphology), motility, volume and viscosity. The presence of a bacterial infection or immature sperm cells may also be determined. A Computer Aided Semen Analysis Machine (CASA) may be used for analysis.

Sperm: the male reproductive gamete.

Sperm bank: cryopreserved sperm are stored for use in artificial insemination or donor sperm situations.

Sperm washing: dilution of sperm sample prior to insemination to remove prostaglandin chemicals in the semen that cause contractions of the uterus. This procedure may also be used to remove other debris from the semen.

Teratospermia: abnormally shaped sperm.

Testicular biopsy: removal of a small sample of testicular tissue to study sperm development and production.

Testicular/epididymal sperm aspiration (TESA): surgical procedure in which the testicle or epididymis are biopsied for the purposes of obtaining sperm for ICSI. Useful in men with vasectomies, blockages, azoospermia or failed vasectomy reversals.

Testosterone: an androgen hormone produced in the testes that affects sperm production and male sex characteristics. Also found in women, elevated testosterone levels can cause unwanted hair growth and interfere with proper ovulation.

Varicocele: an abnormal dilation or torsion of the vein that carries blood from the testes back to the heart. Most commonly occurs on the left side and may cause decreased sperm production by increasing the temperature in the sperm producing cells, decreasing blood flow and oxygenation or changing hormone concentrations.

Vas deferens: the tubule that carries sperm from the epididymis to the ejaculatory duct of the penis.

Vasectomy: sterilization procedure in men that involves surgically removing part of the vas deferens.

Vasogram: an x-ray examination of the vas deferens to check for blockage (male counterpart of HSG).