Low sperm count means that the semen you ejaculate during an orgasm contains fewer sperm than normal. A low sperm count is called oligospermia, and it is a major cause of infertility among men. Sperm count is considered low if it goes below 15 million sperm per millimetre of semen, and the average is around 75 million sperm per ml. A complete absence of sperm is known as azoospermia.
Low Sperm Count Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
What are the symptoms of low sperm count?
The main symptom of low sperm count is the inability to conceive. There might not be any other obvious signs. An underlying problem like an inherited chromosomal abnormality, hormonal imbalance, dilatated testicular veins, or a condition that blocks the passage of sperm can cause the signs of low sperm count. These symptoms might include:
- Problems with sexual function like low sex drive or difficulty maintaining an erection
- Pain, swelling or lump in the testicle area.
- Loss of face or body hair, as well as other chromosomal or hormonal abnormalities.
Low Sperm Count Causes And Treatment
Risk factors include obesity or being overweight, having experience trauma or surgery in or around the testicles and taking certain medications. Too much heat can also lower sperm count, which can happen with tight clothing and underwear. There are many causes of low sperm quality, which can be broadly divided into three categories:
- Medical Factors
A history of testicular injury, surgery or symptoms and genetic conditions can increase your chances of having a low sperm count.
Cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation or surgery, can affect hormone and sperm production. Radiation of the testicles can damage the cells that produce sperm, while radiation of the brain can cause low sperm count due to hormonal imbalance.
Other medical causes include:
- Varicocele or swelling of the veins that drain the testicle is a common and reversible cause of infertility.
- Previous infections or STIs can cause blockages, scarring, or other damage to the reproductive system.
- Problems with erection or ejaculation
- Immune system problems
- Cystic fibrosis or being a genetic carrier of cystic fibrosis that can prevent sperm from accessing the sperm chamber.
- A variety of medical procedures, treatments, or medications for a range of ailments
- Environmental Factors
The ideal sperm conditions are slightly less than body temperature, which is why the testicles are positioned outside the abdominal cavity.
Overheating your testicles can lower sperm production. This includes taking frequent and long hot tubs to sitting with your laptop atop your lap. Other environmental causes include occupational exposure to herbicides, pesticides, solvents and other industrial chemicals or heavy metals. Exposure to radiation can also harm sperm production.
- Lifestyle Factors
Activities like teenage drug addiction and alcohol use, vaping or smoking tobacco can lower your sperm count. Likewise, anabolic steroids that are usually taken to increase muscle mass will mostly shrink testicles and decrease sperm production.
Other causes include:
- Testosterone boosters, vitamins and pre-workout supplements may contain small amounts of anabolic steroids that can impair sperm production.
- Jobs that require long periods of sitting.
- Emotional issues like stress and teen depression
- Body weight, especially if you have obesity or are overweight
Diagnosis for low sperm count
Your doctor will take a medical history and conduct a physical examination. A specific doctor other than an infertility specialist would be an Andrologist. They may ask for other tests like:
- Semen analysis and sperm function tests
- Urinalysis to test for retrograde ejaculation
- Tests of your endocrine system to measure hormone levels
- Transrectal and scrotal ultrasounds
- Testing of any genetic disorders
Treatment for low sperm count
The treatment you receive for low sperm count depends on the cause. Your doctor can help you figure low sperm count causes and treatment that you have. There are some ways you can change your trying to conceive routine that can make pregnancy more possible.
- Surgery: For cases like large varicoceles, blockages or issues with sperm leaving the body, surgery is an option. In other cases, the sperm can be obtained for assisted procedures like IVF.
- Medications: The infections of the reproductive tract can be treated with medicines. It is important to treat infections properly and promptly as any delay can result in permeant tissue scarring.
- Counselling: issues with sexual intercourse, including erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation, can respond to a combination of medication and counselling.
- Hormonal treatments: since high or low testosterone or other hormones can cause low sperm count, addressing the levels with medication or other treatments can help to restore fertility.
Lifestyle modifications: there are things you can do at home to increase the odds of pregnancy with low sperm count, like having sex more frequently and timing sex with ovulation. Also, skip all lubricants that can slow sperm travel and avoid activities that can raise the temperature of the testicles.