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Impotence And Sterility: Know The Difference

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Impotence and sterility are two different terms with different meanings, but both affect a man’s ability to have children. Before we start with the differences, let’s know the meaning of both terms. 

What Is Impotence In A Man?

Impotence, also called erectile dysfunction, is the inability of a man to attain enough firm erection to stimulate sexual intercourse. Such sexual dysfunction makes it difficult or sometimes impossible to have sexual intercourse as a man is not able to fulfill the initial step to intercourse.

There are up to 30 million impotent American men. This gets common as men get older, but it is not a compulsory part of aging.

In order to stimulate an erection, a man’s body requires the functioning of multiple organ systems, such as the nervous system, muscles, and blood vessels, which need to work in a coordinated manner.

A man can have difficulty in erection if any of the functions get blocked.

Letting you know about both impotence and sterility will help you understand the difference in a better manner.

What Is The Main Cause Of Impotence?

Improper functioning of nerves, the insufficient flow of blood, unstable mental state, and many other categories of reasons contribute to impotence/erectile dysfunction. Some of the significant causes of impotence are as follows:-

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Depression or other mood disorders
  • stress (such as performance anxiety)
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis
  • High cholesterol
  • Side effects of some medications, such as antidepressants, antihistamines, or blood pressure–reducing drugs
  • Nerve damage
  • Peyronie’s disease
  • Obesity
  • Tobacco use
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Low self-esteem

Erectile dysfunction may also occur as a result of side effects of some medical procedures, such as:-

  • Prostate cancer treatment
  • Enlarged prostate(Benign prostatic hypertrophy, or BPH)

What Is Male Sterility?

Male sterility, also known as male infertility, is a type of sexual dysfunction in which a man can attain enough firm erection for sexual intercourse.

However, he still fails to conceive a child even though he had frequent, unprotected sexual intercourse for almost a year.

This can occur because of multiple reasons, such as low sperm count, abnormal sperm function, or blockages preventing sperm from passing. On the other, illness, injuries, chronic health problems, and unhealthy lifestyle habits may also contribute to male sterility or male infertility.

Not being able to conceive a child can be frustrating, but there are several medical procedures for its treatment.

Also Read: Are the Blue Pills for Men Effective?

How Do You Know If A Man Is Sterile?

Unhealthy conditions, such as an inherited disorder, hormonal imbalance, dilated veins around the testicle, or blockage of the passage of sperm, cause signs and symptoms of sterility. Below are the points of signs and symptoms of sterility that can help you know its existence:-

  • Sexual dysfunctions, such as difficulty while ejaculating, uncertain discharge of sperm, lack of sexual desire, and difficulty in maintaining an erection.
  • Feeling pain, swelling, or lump in the testicle area
  • Recurrent respiratory infections
  • Inability to smell
  • Abnormal breast growth
  • Decreased facial or body hair
  • Signs of chromosomal or hormonal abnormality
  • Low sperm count

What Causes Sterility?

These are the following things that are necessary to make your partner pregnant, such as:-

  • You need to produce healthy sperm
  • Your sperm must be carried out with the semen
  • Not only sperm count, but you also need to have enough semen as well
  • Sperm must be functional and able to move

Not fulfilling any of the above criteria can lead to the occurrence of male sterility. The below-mentioned conditions indirectly or directly contribute to the occurrence of infertility(above conditions):

  • Varicocele: It is a condition in which the veins responsible for draining the testicles get swollen. It is one of the most common reversible causes of infertility and can be linked to abnormal blood flow; the exact cause is unknown.
  • Infection: Inflammation of the epididymis (epididymitis) or testicles (orchitis) and some sexually transmitted infections are caused by certain infections and result in permanent testicular damage-causing sterility.
  • Ejaculation complications: Such as retrograde ejaculation is a condition in which the semen enters the bladder during orgasm instead of emerging out from the tip of the penis.Health complications, such as diabetes, spinal injuries, medications, and surgery of the bladder, prostate, or urethra may lead to retrograde ejaculation.
  • Autoimmune causes: Anti-sperm antibodies are the part of the human immune system that mistakenly identifies the sperm as harmful invaders and thus, tries to eliminate them.
  • Tumors: Severe tumors that can lead to cancer can directly affect the male reproductive organs through the reproductive hormone-releasing glands.
  • Undescended testicles: In some males, at the time of fetal development, one or both the testicles fail to descend from the abdomen into the sac containing the testicles. Most of the cases of male sterility undescended testicles are the reason behind male sterility.
  • Hormone imbalance: Imbalance in the hormonal system, such as the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, adrenal glands, or low testosterone, can also lead to male sterility.
  • Chromosomal defect: Chromosomal defects include abnormal development of male reproductive organs that can consequently lead to infertility. Apart from all these conditions, some drugs may also lead to sterility, and celiac disease may also lead to male sterility.

Can You Get Pregnant From A Sterile Man?

The answer is no, you will not get pregnant from a sterile man. In the case of sterile/infertile men, the fusion of the egg with the sperm never occurs.

In such cases, donor sperm can be obtained from semen banks, the sperm is then injected into the egg. 

Whereas, you may get pregnant from an impotent man if he follows the treatment prescribed by the doctor. It’s not necessary that every impotent man will have a low sperm count, but this is not in the case of sterility.

Impotence vs. Sterility

  • Impotence is the inability to attain a sufficient firm erection to stimulate sexual intercourse, whereas sterility in males is the inability of a man to conceive a child.This can be due to multiple conditions, such as low sperm count, abnormal sperm function, or blockages preventing sperm from passing.
  • Usually, impotence can occur either due to insufficient flow of blood or nerve damage. Sterility can occur due to multiple reasons like low sperm count, abnormal sperm function, or blockages preventing sperm from passing.
  • An impotent man can be fertile enough to conceive a baby, but if a man is sterile, there is no chance of conceiving.
  • Impotence comes under physical complications, whereas sterility is associated with an imbalance of hormones.
  • Impotence or erectile dysfunction is something that can happen only in males, but sterility or infertility can occur both in men and women.

These were the basic differences between impotence and sterility. You will get to know more on this topic once you are aware of both impotence and sterility; treatment, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, etc. Knowing about both will help you understand the differences.


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Photo of author Janet Fudge
Jim Carson is a highly skilled and dedicated medical writer passionate about advancing medical practice. With years of experience in the field of medical sciences, Jim has made significant contributions to various studies aimed at improving healthcare outcomes. He currently writes for, providing expert insights and knowledge on various topics. Jim's expertise extends to various areas, including drug interactions, dosages, side effects, and best practices for medication use. In Los Angeles, Jim lives with his loving wife, children, and beloved pets. He deeply values spending time with his family and cherishes their presence. When he's not writing, Jim enjoys watching football games and staying updated with the latest sports news. Jim's writing shines through his commitment to advancing medical practice and improving healthcare outcomes. Readers can trust Jim's articles to be informative, accurate, and reliable, making him a trusted pharmaceutical information source for the website's audience.
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