Low sperm count is a major male infertility case worldwide with current studies indicating that sperm counts have substantially dropped over the years. According to reports, men from Australia, North American, New Zealand are facing various male infertility issues with low sperm counts as the main problem and similarly males from Asian countries or Africa aren’t spared. Studies also indicate that male sperm count has drastically declined by 50% over the years.
What is a Low Sperm Count?
Also known as oligospermia, low sperm count is a male condition where the ejaculated sperms are fewer than 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen. Although a male with a low sperm count can impregnate a woman, fertility experts stress that having a low sperm count significantly decreases one’s odds of fertility, or in other words having children naturally.
Causes of a Low Sperm Count
It is quite hard to diagnose yourself with a low sperm count with the fact that you ejaculate on a daily basis. Clinically, the male’s reproductive system is complex with different parts such as the scrotum, epididymis, ejaculatory duct, prostate, testicles, Urethra, penis, the Spermatic Cords and Ductus Deferens. All these parts have specific functions that include sperm production, transportation, and delivery. Unless a man gets a sperm analysis or undergoes a complex physical examination of the entire reproductive system, the source of the problem will only remain a myth.
There are various factors that trigger low sperm counts in males and they include;
This is a swelling of the veins that drain the testicle and the commonest cause of low sperm count. The problem is reversible.
- Ejaculation Issues
Retrograde ejaculation happens when the semen enters the bladder during orgasm instead of being delivered through the penis. Diabetes and injuries can trigger ejaculation issues.
- Undescended testicles
This is a problem that develops during infancy. It is when the boy’s testicles fail to descend from the abdomen into the scrotum.
- Tubal defects
In case of any damage or injury to the tubes that carry (transport) sperms, a male may suffer from a low sperm count. Tubal defects emerge from infections, past surgeries or injuries.
- Hormonal Imbalances
The testicles, pituitary, and the hypothalamus are responsible for producing hormones that trigger semen production. Any imbalance in the hormones may trigger a low sperm count.
An inflammation of the epididymis (epididymitis) or testicles (orchitis) or infections like STDs can interfere with sperm production.
Cancers and nonmalignant tumors can also interfere with sperm production and delivery hence causing a low sperm count.
A number of medications such as chemotherapy, long-term anabolic steroid use, radiation, X-rays, and Testosterone replacement therapy can impair sperm production.
Heat has a detrimental effect on normal sperm production as well as quality. Heat from factories, bathtubs, or hot water can affect your sperm production and count.
Other factors that can trigger a low sperm count include;
- Drug use
- Exposure to heavy metals
- Problems with the immune system
- Chromosome defects
- Industrial chemicals
- Being a workaholic
- Emotional or physical stress
Symptoms of Low Sperm Count
One of the immediate signs of a low sperm count is the inability to impregnate your spouse. However, a female partner may also have underlying infertility issues which means that a sperm analysis is required to identify the actual cause of infertility. Other signs and symptoms include;
- A swelling or a lump in the testicular region
- Erectile issues
Low Sperm Count Diagnosis
A semen analysis is a standard diagnostic approach to a male’s sperm count and therefore, it will require a man to visit a fertility expert. A semen analysis basically involves protocols that evaluate a man’s sperm morphology, quality, motility, and viability.
- A Sperm Analysis
With this, sperms are obtained either surgically or through masturbation and taken to the laboratory for an evaluation. They are analysed under a microscope to see how many sperms appear within squares on a grid pattern, whereas in other cases, a computer may be utilized.
Another analysis may be conducted after a few weeks or a month since produced sperms take about 43 days to mature. A new sample is required.
- Physical Examination
The doctor will look at your genitals and pose different questions regarding your medical history. Any form of surgeries, medications, injuries, and illnesses must be reported.
- Testicular biopsy
With this approach, samples from either of the testicle are taken with the help of a needle. This is commonly utilized to know whether sperm production is normal or not.
- Scrotal Ultrasound
This test utilizes high-frequency sound waves for the doctor to take a closer look at the testicles and the supporting structures.
Other diagnostic tests include;
- Hormone testing
- Genetic tests
- Post-ejaculation urinalysis
- Transrectal ultrasound
- Anti-sperm antibody tests among others
Low Sperm Count Treatment
Low sperm count treatment approaches vary as per the actual cause of the problem. Possible treatments include;
Hormone replacement or other medications can be utilized to increase sperm count.
- Treating the underlying infection
Antibiotics are commonly provided to treat an infection of the reproductive duct and in case the sperm count isn’t improved, other treatment approaches can be utilized.
A varicocele is commonly corrected by surgical approaches. The same approach can be utilized to eliminate any defect or obstruction with the vas deferens and also prior vasectomies can be reversed. In case no sperms are attained naturally, surgical extraction means like PEAS, MESA can be utilized.
Male Infertility & Low Sperm Count
Currently, male infertility issues arising from sperm count or quality can be solved with ART (Assisted Reproductive Technologies). These include IVF (In Vitro Fertilization), IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) or ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection). Donor sperms may also be utilized during the fertilization process.
Rick Factors For Low Sperm Count
- Obesity or being overweight
- Exposure to heat or chemicals
- Smoking tobacco
- Use of illicit drugs
- Certain medications like; Anabolic steroids, Antihypertensives, Erythromycin, Allopurinol, Cimetidine, Colchicine, Chemotherapy, Dilantin, Cyclosporine, Tetracycline, Nitrofurantoin, and Gentamycin
Ways to Increase Your Sperm Count
- Get enough sleep (7-9 hours) regularly
- Exercise regularly
- Get enough vitamin D and calcium
- Quit smoking
- Reduce your alcohol intake
- Take Fenugreek supplement
- Get enough folate and zinc
- Find effective ways to deal with stress (physical & emotional stress)
- Improve your diet (take more antioxidant foods)
- Avoid certain medications like; anti-androgens, anti-inflammatories, antipsychotics, corticosteroids, and methadone among others
Related Sperm Complications
Other sperm issues that may hinder a male from starting a family include;
- Sperm morphology
- Sperm Motility
- Sperm quality among others