Retrograde Ejaculation: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Anatomical chart depicting retrograde ejaculation
(Source: Wikipedia)

What Is Retrograde Ejaculation?

Retrograde ejaculation (also called “dry orgasm”) occurs when semen doesn’t leave the body through the penis during orgasm, but instead travels back into the bladder.

In men, both urine and ejaculate travel through the urethra. The bladder has a sphincter muscle that helps to keep urine in place until you’re ready to urinate.

This muscle also contracts during orgasm to prevent ejaculate from getting into the bladder. This allows the semen to pass through your urethra and out of the penis.

However, with retrograde ejaculation this muscle does not contract. Since the bladder’s sphincter remains in a relaxed state, the ejaculate goes into in your bladder instead.

Even though semen doesn’t leave the body, the sensation is the same as a normal orgasm and does not affect sexual satisfaction. Additionally, retrograde ejaculation is not a sign of a disease or a serious health condition.

Symptoms of Retrograde Ejaculation

The primary sign of retrograde ejaculation is when there is only a small amount or a complete absence of semen when having an orgasm. This is due to the semen making its way into your bladder rather than your urethra.

You may also notice that your urine appears somewhat cloudy after having sex. This is due to the semen becoming mixed with your urine.

Male infertility is another symptom of retrograde ejaculation, since little-to-no semen or sperm leaves the body.

Retrograde ejaculation is not known to cause pain or discomfort, and is not associated with any serious health complications. It doesn’t prevent you from getting an erection or having an orgasm.

However, if a lack of ejaculate is upsetting to you, it can negatively impact your sexual enjoyment.

Effects On Fertility

Retrograde ejaculation does adversely impact fertility, but it only represents a small fraction of all infertility cases.

Having retrograde ejaculation does not mean you have abnormal or unhealthy sperm. Rather, the infertility is due to your sperm not reaching your partner.

Who Is At Risk?

Men with certain medical-related conditions are at a greater risk of experiencing retrograde ejaculation. These include:

  • Diabetes.
  • Parkinson’s disease and MS (multiple sclerosis).
  • Bladder, urethra or prostate surgery.
  • Spinal cord surgery or injury.
  • Surgery involving the pelvis or rectum.
  • Some medications used for treating high blood pressure, enlarged prostate or depression.

When To See a Doctor

It might be worth visiting your doctor if you are frequently experiencing dry orgasms. Retrograde ejaculation doesn’t pose a danger to your health, but it could indicate other problems. There may be an underlying condition that might need to be addressed.

To rule out any clear abnormalities, your doctor will likely perform a physical exam. Your doctor will also need to ask you some questions related to your issue, such as:

  • What symptoms are you experiencing?
  • For how long and how frequently have you been experiencing dry orgasms?
  • Do you have any preexisting conditions, surgeries or injuries?
  • Are you currently taking any medications?
  • Have you had any cancer treatments?

A urinalysis is a reliable way to test for retrograde ejaculation. You may be asked to submit a urine sample after masturbating. Retrograde ejaculation will be confirmed if your urine contains high numbers of sperm.

Additionally, semen normally contains fructose. Lab tests will likely detect fructose in your urine if you have retrograde ejaculation.

If there is no semen present in the urine after orgasm, it could indicate a problem with semen production or another issue. An appointment with an infertility specialist may be necessary in order to conduct further testing.

Treatment

Retrograde ejaculation does not necessarily need any treatment. It doesn’t lead to discomfort and should not affect your sexual pleasure or pose any health risk. However, there are treatment options available.

If the condition is due to medication, the problem should disappear once you stop taking it. However, always talk to your doctor first about not using or changing your prescription meds. This ensures that you can proceed safely and be fully aware of your options.

There are also a number of medications that can be used to help with constricting the bladder’s sphincter muscle during ejaculation. These medications include imipramine (Tofranil), which is a type of antidepressant, and antihistamines like pseudoephedrine and phenylephedrine, which are found in over-the-counter medications like Sudafed.

However, medication is not recommended for those with severe nerve or muscular damage caused by surgery as they are typically ineffective.

A fertility specialist is recommended if you are trying to conceive but medication is not working. You can may be able to retrieve sperm that can be used for IVF (in vitro fertilization) or artificial insemination.

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