Definition - What does Azoospermia mean?

Azoospermia refers to a lack of sperm within a man’s ejaculate (semen). Azoospermia is a cause of infertility and may prevent a man from contributing to a conception.

FertilitySmarts explains Azoospermia

There are two types of azoospermia.

  • Obstructive azoospermia: sperm is being produced; however it is blocked from being expelled.
  • Nonobstructive azoospermia: sperm is not being produced.

Causes of obstructive azoospermia depend on the location and type of blockage. In some men, these passages may be missing altogether, blocked by the presence of tissue, build up, or scar tissue from previous injuries, infections, or procedures (such as a past vasectomy). There are three primary locations where blockages are typically found:

  • Epididymis blockage. The epididymis is a coiled tube at the back of the testicle. This is the location where sperm matures.
  • Vas deferens blockage. The vans deferens is the tube that leads from the testicles to the ejaculatory duct.
  • Ejaculatory duct blockage. The ejaculatory duct is the tube that leads to the urethral opening.

Causes of nonobstructive azoospermia include:

  • Genetic conditions or disorders
  • Certain medications
  • Radiation or cancer treatments
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Smoking
  • Drug use
  • Excessive drinking

To diagnose azoospermia, the following tests may be performed:

  • Physical examinations
  • Detailed medical history, including family history of illness
  • Hormone testing
  • Genetic testing
  • Imaging of the reproductive system through MRIs, ultrasound, or CT

Treatment of azoospermia depends on the diagnosed type and the desired outcomes. Obstructive azoospermia may require surgical procedures to unblock the portion of the reproductive tract that is causing the condition. Nonobstructive azoospermia may require lifestyle changes, medication changes, or hormone therapy. Additionally, some men may elect for a sperm extraction procedure. This allows men to contribute to pregnancy via the surgical removal of sperm in conjunction with an assisted reproductive technology fertility treatment such as artificial insemination (AI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF).

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