Low sperm count means when the fluid you ejaculate during the orgasm contains less sperm than the normal. A low sperm count is called oligospermia. The complete absence of the sperm is known as azoospermia. The sperm count is also considered lower than the normal if you have fewer than 10 million sperm per millilitre of semen.
Having low sperm count decreases the odds that one of your sperm will fertilize your partner’s egg which results 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 that blocks the passage of sperm may cause low sperm count. 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
Also Read: How To Treat Male Infertility Naturally?
Causes for Low Sperm Count
The production of the sperm is the complex process that requires the functioning of the testicles as well as the pituitary glands. Once the sperms are produced in the testicles, delicate tubes transfer the sperms until they 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 or lower the sperm count is unknown, it can be due to the abnormal testicular temperature regulation. Varicoceles result in the low 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 (tube that testicle to a vas deferens) or the testicles. Sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, chlamydia, etc also affect sperm production. Some of the infections can result in the permanent damage of the testicular. This permanent damage results in impotence or infertility.
- Ejaculation problems: Retrograde ejaculation occurs when the semen enters the bladder during the orgasm instead of coming out from the tip of the penis. It results in only a small amount of semen coming out or nothing at all. There are various health conditions that cause retrograde ejaculation, it includes diabetes, surgery of the bladder, urethra. Thus, retrograde is one of the causes that affect the fertility of a male.
There are some medications that also result in ejaculatory problems. These can be 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 by affecting the glands which release hormones that are crucial for sperm production. Especially in the cases where a person has testicular cancer, it will have a major impact on his sperm count.
- Undescended testicles: During fetal development, sometimes both the testicles fail to descend from the abdomen into the sac that contains the testicles (scrotum). Such cases require surgical correction, then only they can produce sperms. Even the surgery, there are chances that the sperm count will be lower than the normal.
- 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. In addition to this, hormonal imbalance can also result in erectile dysfunction.
- 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. Thus, it is really necessary to be well informed and choose the right doctor for such surgeries.
Also Read: How to Increase Male Motility?
Low sperm count- Environmental Causes
- Heavy metal exposure: Exposure to the lead or other heavy metals can cause infertility or majorly reduce the sperm count.
- 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. Such occupations include welding or those associated with prolonged sitting like truck driving.
- Excess body weight: Obesity can have adverse effects on fertility in several ways. One of the most common affect includes lowered sperm count. Obesity also causes hormonal changes.
- Depression: Being depressed may also negatively affect sperm concentration. (Also Read: Can Lifestyle And Psychological Factors Cause Erectile Dysfunction? )
Prevention of Low Sperm Count
To restore your fertility or improve sperm count, you should avoid the fact the following factors in mind:
- 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 seek medical help because you are having 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 better that both partners go for evaluation 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. the doctor will ask you questions about any inherited conditions, illnesses, chronic health problems or surgeries which could affect the fertility. The doctor might also ask about your sexual habits and sexual development.
A low sperm count is diagnosed as part of the semen analysis test. Doctors analyze the semen under the microscope to check how many sperms appear on the grid pattern. You can provide the semen 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. One of the most common causes of the low sperm count is the improper collection of 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 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 that 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. This can happen due to retrograde ejaculation.
- Testicular biopsy: This test will involve removing samples from the testicles with the help of the needle. The results of the testicular biopsy tell if sperm production is normal or not. Testicular biopsy is recommended in complicated cases of infertility.
- Anti-sperm antibody tests: These tests 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 surgery. Doctors can also reverse prior vasectomy that if affecting the fertility. In cases where no sperm are present when it ejaculates, sperms can be retrieved directly from the testicles via the sperm retrieval techniques. (Also Read: Which Is The Best Treatment For Varicocele? )
- 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 due to hormonal imbalance.
- 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.
Lifestyle and home remedies
There are some steps that increase the chances of getting your partner pregnant, which include:
- Increasing the frequency of sex: Doing sexual intercourse every day 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 Doctor’s 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. It will help your doctor in determining the root cause of low sperm count.
- 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.