Infertility is not always the woman’s fault. Do you know 40-50% of infertility cases are caused by men? There are so many factors that cause infertility in men and one of the major causes is low sperm count.
What is a low sperm count?
Low sperm count is also called oligospermia, it indicates that the ejaculated semen during an orgasm contains less sperm than 15 million per millilitre of semen.
Having a low sperm count decreases the odds that one of your sperm will fertilize your partner’s egg, resulting in pregnancy.
What causes low sperm count?
- Drug abuse and alcohol consumption: Use of opiates like oxycontin and fentanyl affect hormone levels and can lead to DNA problems. Binge drinking can cause impotence and affect sperm quality.
- Smoking tobacco: tobacco affects sperm volume, sperm count, and sperm motility, its ability to swim.
- Overweight: Low sperm count is associated with having more body fat and a higher BMI (body mass index). Obesity lowers testosterone levels, which drive sperm production.
- Depression and stress: your mental health affects your reproductive health the same way it does your physical health. Depression or prolonged emotional stress can cause changes in sperm production.
- Overheating and trauma to the testicles: Overheating caused by use of jacuzzi and sauna can make the testicles too hot for the sperm to survive. Another cause of overheating could be seating too long like truck drivers, or even putting your laptop on your lap. Accidents can cause injury or trauma to your penis and could cause low sperm count.
- Infections: Some infections like sexually transmitted diseases can interfere with sperm production or sperm health or can cause scarring that blocks the passage of sperm calling low sperm count and other infertility issues.
- Exposure to toxins: Extended exposure to heavy metals, benzenes, toluene, xylene, herbicides, pesticides, organic solvents, painting materials and lead might contribute to low sperm counts.
- Genetic disorder: inherited disorders such as Klinefelter’s syndrome in which a male is born with two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome instead of one X and one Y cause abnormal development of the male reproductive organs. Other genetic syndromes associated with infertility include cystic fibrosis, Kallmann’s syndrome and Kartagener’s syndrome.
- Tumour or chronic illness: Cancers and nonmalignant tumors can affect the male reproductive organs directly, through the glands that release hormones related to reproduction, such as the pituitary gland, or through unknown causes.
- Cancer Treatment: chemotherapy is known to cause infertility in both men and women. Just like exposure to toxins it can cause low sperm count.
- Hormone imbalance: this is not just a female concept. When a man has low testosterone, it can cause him to produce less sperm than normal.
- Having a surgery in the past such as that of a vasectomy, pelvic or abdominal surgery when there are complications could affect the functioning of your penis and testes which results in either erectile problems or sperm production.
- Undescended testicles: During fetal development one or both testicles sometimes fail to descend from the abdomen into the sac that normally contains the testicles, when a man has this condition, it may lead to infertility.
- Medications: like testosterone replacement therapy, long-term steroid use, cancer medications, some antibiotics and some antidepressants can cause low libido, ejaculation problems and even sperm production.
- Choice of underwear: a new study found that men who wear boxer shorts have higher sperm count than those who wear tight briefs.
- Autoimmune disease: Anti-sperm antibodies are immune system cells that mistakenly identify sperm as harmful invaders and attempt to destroy them.
Signs and symptoms of low sperm count include:
- Inability to conceive: This is the main and most overt symptom of low sperm count in men.
- Underlying problems- They include hormonal imbalance, dilation of testicular veins or a chromosome abnormality which is inherited may also block the pathway of the sperm to egg. This may then cause other symptoms and signs, as well as low sperm count.
- Lack of libido- Having low sex drive or even erectile dysfunctions are can be indicators of low sperm count.
- Concerns in the testicle area- This includes swelling or even a lump in the region which is causing pain. This can also lead to low sperm count.
- Swelling or pain in or around the testicles: this could mean epididymis obstruction, (which prevents sperm from getting ejaculated) inflammation or trauma which reduces sperm quality and count.
- Less facial or body hair: is one of the major symptoms of a change in hormone levels in the body.
- Erectile dysfunction: is a sign of so many underlying fertility issues, it is usually caused by diabetes, stress, depression, use of medications, hormone imbalance which results in low sperm count and infertility.
- Too deep voice: A deep manly voice indicates good cholesterol level, but a voice that is too deep may indicate a low sperm count too.
- Increase Body weight: A lack of testosterone can lead to obesity due to increased fat storage and decreased metabolic rate. Low testosterone levels may also cause weight gain by increasing appetite and slowing the body’s ability to burn calories from food.
- Extreme fatigue: if you feel tired and lack energy or zeal to get up and do something, it could be a sign of low cholesterol.
Having these symptoms would not always mean you have low sperm count, you need to consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis.
Tests to Detect Low Sperm Count
- Physical evaluation and medical history
Examination of your genitals and asking questions about any inherited conditions, chronic health problems, illnesses, injuries or surgeries that could affect fertility. Your doctor might also ask about your sexual habits and your sexual development.
- Semen analysis
Sperm count is generally determined by examining semen under a microscope to see how many sperm appear within squares on a grid pattern. In some cases, a computer might be used to measure sperm count.
- Scrotal ultrasound
Test to check the testicles and other supporting structures for abnormalities that can cause infertility.
- Hormone profiling
A blood test would determine the level of hormones produced by your body which is important in sexual development and sperm production.
- Post-ejaculation urinalysis
Sperm in your urine can indicate your sperm are traveling backward into the bladder instead of out your penis during ejaculation (retrograde ejaculation).
- Genetic tests
A blood test can reveal whether there are subtle changes in the Y chromosome signs of a genetic abnormality.
- Testicular biopsy
This test involves removing samples from the testicle with a needle. The results of the testicular biopsy can tell if sperm production is normal.
- Anti-sperm antibody tests
These tests are used to check for immune cells (antibodies) that attack sperm and affect their ability to function.
- Specialized sperm function tests
A number of tests can be used to check how well your sperm survive after ejaculation, how well they can penetrate an egg and whether there’s any problem attaching to the egg. These tests are rarely performed and often do not significantly change treatment recommendations.
- Transrectal ultrasound
A small lubricated wand is inserted into your rectum to check your prostate and check for blockages of the tubes that carry semen (ejaculatory ducts and seminal vesicles).
In the meantime here are some steps you can take on your own:
- Indulge on physical activities
- Quit smoking, drinking and recreational drugs
- Reduce stress
- Eat healthy
- Increase intake of Vitamin D and Calcium
With all this information, you may be wondering what steps you should take if you have some symptoms of low sperm count. First, consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and make sure you tell the doctor all he/she needs to know about your condition to assist you properly and also rule out any complications in the future.
Men with low sperm count can still get their partner pregnant and also get treated. You can visit any fertility clinic near you to get help if you can not find one you can use click this link and we will help you find one.
Our blog articles are to enlighten you on general healthcare or fertility-related issues. This is not a diagnosis.