Low sperm Count – Causes, symptoms and Treatment
Low sperm count means when the fluid you ejaculate during the orgasm contains less sperm than what’s normal. A low sperm count is called oligospermia which is the complete absence of the sperm is known azoospermia. The sperm count is also considered lower than the normal if you have fewer than 10 million sperm per millilitre of semen.
Having the low sperm count decreases the odds that one of your sperm will fertilize your partner’s egg which result in pregnancy.
Symptoms of low sperm count
The main sign of low sperm is the inability to conceive a child. In some men, underlying problems like hormonal imbalance or a condition which blocks the passage of sperm may cause these symptoms. The symptoms may include:
- Swelling in the testicle area
- Problems with the sexual function
- A decrease in facial or body hair is another sign for abnormality
Causes for low sperm count
The production of the sperm is the complex process which requires the functioning of the testicles as well as the pituitary glands. Once the sperms are produced in the testicles, delicate tubes transfer them until they are mix with the semen and are ejaculated out of the penis. Problems with these systems can affect the sperm count.
Low sperm count- medical causes
- Varicocele: A varicocele is the swelling of the veins which drain the testicle. The exact reason why varicoceles cause infertility is unknown, it can be related to the abnormal testicular temperature regulation. Varicoceles result in the reduced quality of the sperm.
- Infection: Some infections can interfere with sperm production which can cause scarring which blocks the passage of sperm. These include the inflammation of the epididymis or the testicles and some of the sexually transmitted infections which include HIV. Some of the infections can result in the permanent damage of the testicular.
- Ejaculation problems: Retrograde ejaculation occurs when the semen enters the bladder during the orgasm instead of coming out from the tip of the penis. There are various health conditions which can cause the retrograde ejaculation, it includes diabetes, surgery of the bladder, urethra.
There are some medications which can also result in ejaculatory problems like blood pressure medications which are known as alpha blockers. In most of the cases of the ejaculation problems, sperm can be retrieved from the testicles.
- Tumors: Cancer and other nonmalignant tumors can also affect the male reproductive organs through the glands which release hormones which are related to the production like the pituitary gland or by unknown causes.
- Undescended testicles: During the fetal development of both the testicles, fail to descend from the abdomen into the sac which normally contains the testicles.
- Hormone imbalances: The pituitary, hypothalamus or testicles produce hormones which are necessary to produce the sperm. Alterations in these hormones may impair the sperm production.
- Prior surgeries: There are certain surgeries which prevent the sperm you are having to ejaculate, these surgeries include inguinal hernia repairs, vasectomy, scrotal or prostate surgeries.
Low sperm count- Environmental Causes
- Heavy metal exposure: Exposure to the lead or other heavy metals can cause infertility.
- Overheating of the testicles: Elevated temperatures can impair sperm production. Frequent use of the saunas and hot tubs might temporarily impair the sperm count. Sitting for longer periods, wearing tight clothing and working on the laptop while placing it in your lap for long hours can reduce sperm production.
- Radiation: Exposure to radiation can also reduce sperm production. It will take several years for sperm production.
Low sperm count- Health, lifestyle causes
- Drug use: Anabolic steroids which are taken to stimulate the muscle strength and growth can cause the testicles to shrink and the sperm production will decrease. If you use cocaine or marijuana, it might reduce the quality of the sperm.
- Occupation: Certain occupations are also linked with the risk of infertility, which includes welding or those associated with prolonged sitting like truck driving.
- Weight: Obesity can also impair fertility in several ways which include directly impacting the sperm and cause the hormones to change.
- Depression: Being depressed may also negatively affect sperm concentration.
Prevention of low sperm count
To restore your fertility, you should avoid the known factors which can affect the sperm count and quality. For example:
- Limit the intake of alcohol
- Avoid the use of drugs
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Manage your stress
- Avoid the exposure to pesticides, heavy metals and other toxins
- Avoid heat
Diagnosis of low sperm count
When you will see the doctor because you are having the trouble in getting your partner pregnant, the doctor will determine the underlying the cause. Even when the doctor thinks that you have low sperm count, it’s recommended that your partner should be evaluated to rule out the contributing factors.
Diagnosis will involve the following procedures:
Physical examination and medical history
This will include the examination of your genitals and will ask you questions about any inherited conditions, illnesses, chronic health problems or surgeries which could affect the fertility.t The doctor might also ask about your sexual habits and your sexual development.
A low sperm count is diagnosed as part of the semen analysis test. Sperm count is determined by examining the semen under the microscope to check how many sperms appear on the grid pattern. In most of the cases, a computer will be used to determine the sperm count. Semen samples will be obtained in different ways. You can provide the sample by masturbating and ejaculating into a container. In some of the cases, the semen is collected with the help of the special condom during the intercourse. New sperm is produced in the testicles and takes about 50 to 80 days to mature. A semen analysis will reflect on your environment over the past three months. One of the most common causes of the low sperm count is the improper collection of the sperm. Sperm counts also fluctuate. Because of these factors, most of the doctors will check for semen samples over time.
Other tests for low sperm count
Your doctor can recommend other tests to find the cause of the low sperm count and other causes of male infertility. These can include:
- Scrotal ultrasound: This test uses the high-frequency sound waves to check the testicles and the supporting structures.
- Hormone testing: The doctor might recommend a blood test to determine the level of the hormones which are produced by the pituitary gland and the testicles, which will play a key role in sperm production.
- Post-ejaculation urinalysis: Sperm present in your urine can indicate your sperm are going back into the bladder instead of out of your penis during the ejaculation.
- Testicular biopsy: This test will involve removing samples from the testicles with the help of the needle. The results of the testicular biopsy can tell if sperm production is normal or not. This test is typically used in certain situations and is not commonly used to diagnose the cause of infertility.
- Anti-sperm antibody tests: These tests, which are used to check the immune cells which attack the sperm and affect their ability to function which are not common.
- Transrectal ultrasound: A lubricated wand is inserted into the rectum to check the prostate and check for the blockages of the tubes which carry semen.
Treatment for low sperm count
The treatments for low sperm count include:
- Surgery: For example, a varicocele can be corrected via the surgery. Prior vasectomies can be reversed. In cases where no sperm are present when it ejaculates, sperms can be retrieved directly from the testicles via the sperm retrieval techniques.
- Treating infections: Antibiotics can also cure an infection of the reproductive tract, but it doesn’t always restore fertility. The antibiotics are able to cure the problem quickly and there would be no problem for the patient as there is no side effect.
- Treatments for sexual intercourse problems: Medication can also help to improve the fertility in conditions like erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation.
- Hormone treatments and medications: The doctor can recommend a hormone replacement in some cases where the infertility is caused by the high or low levels of hormones or problems with the way the body will use hormones.
- Assisted reproductive technology: ART treatments involve obtaining the sperm via the normal ejaculation, surgical extraction or via the donor individuals which depends on the specific situation. The sperm is then inserted into the female genital tract.
When the treatment doesn’t work
In some rare cases, male fertility can’t be treated and it’s also impossible for a guy to father a child. If this is the case, then the only option left is to adopt a baby.
Lifestyle and home remedies
There are some steps which you can take to increase the chances of getting your partner pregnant, which includes:
- Increasing the frequency of sex: Doing sexual intercourse everyday at least four days before the ovulation increases the chances of getting your partner pregnant.
- Having sex when fertilization is possible: A woman is likely to become pregnant during the ovulation which comes in the middle of the menstrual cycle. This will ensure that the sperm, which can live for several days are there when the conception is possible.
- Avoid lubricants: Some of the products like K-Y jelly, lotions and saliva can impair the sperm movement and the function.
Preparing for the appointment
You should make a visit to your family doctor. However, the doctor can refer you to an infertility specialist.
What can you do
- Write down the symptoms you are experiencing, which will include the symptoms which seem unrelated to the reason for which you have scheduled the appointment.
- Write down the key personal information including the stresses or any recent life changes.
- Talk to your parents and find out if you had undescended teste or other issues at the birth or in childhood
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. When you make an appointment, ask if there is anything you need to do in advance, like refraining from ejaculating for a certain period of time or stopping the certain medications.
- Make a list of the medications which you are taking such as supplements which you are asking.
- Take your partner along. Even if you are suffering from low sperm count, your partner might need tests to see whether she has any problems which could prevent the pregnancy. It’s good to have your partner along to keep the track of any instructions the doctor will give you.
So, these were the causes, symptoms and treatment of low sperm count. If you had any serious problem then you should consult your doctor first.
Also Read: What Are the Types of Male Infertility?