Among men, the issue of fertility can be a truly touchy subject especially as fertility and virility are closely intertwined in the eyes of men, even women, in most societies.
But before jumping to conclusions about your possible low sperm count, here are a few things that you need to know first.
What Is Oligospermia?
Known as low sperm count in layman’s terms, oligospermia refers to the condition wherein the sperm count is fewer than 15 million sperm for every milliliter of semen.
Emphasis must be made that an apparently smaller amount of semen does not automatically equal to a low sperm count. Doctors use a variety of laboratory tests in determining whether a man has low sperm count or not.
What Are Its Symptoms?
In many cases, oligospermia is an asymptomatic condition, which means that there are no observable signs and symptoms before it is diagnosed.
Its main sign, nonetheless, is the inability to conceive a child (i.e., to have a sperm fertilize an egg before its implantation in the uterus) after years of regular and unprotected sex with a female partner.
Indeed, men who have regular and unprotected sex with their wives or girlfriends with the goal of becoming pregnant yet fail to do so after a year should be concerned.
Low sperm count can also have the following symptoms:
- Issues with sexual function, such as low sex drive, premature ejaculation, and erectile dysfunction
- Pain, swelling and tenderness, with or without a lump, in the testicle area
- Reduced quantity of body or facial hair
Ideally, when you have any concerns about your reproductive health, you should consult with your doctor as soon as possible. Your overall health can be at stake here.
What Are Its Causes?
Sperm production, like egg production in women, is a complex process requiring the normal functioning of several organs in the body.
These include the testicles where the sperm are produced and stored as well as the pituitary glands and hypothalamus, the organs in the brain where the hormones that stimulate sperm production are produced.
Once the sperm have been produced in the testes, these will be transported through delicate tubes for mixing with the semen and for ejaculation out of the penis.
When there are problems with any of these organs and their functions, a sufficient quantity and/or quality of sperm will likely not be produced.
Scientists have identified several causes for low sperm count. But in many cases, the cause of oligospermia cannot be identified.
First, oligospermia can be caused by several health issues including their medical treatments including:
- Varicocele, a swelling of the veins responsible for draining the testicles
- Infections, which can interfere with sperm health and production since these can cause scars in the tubes that transport the sperm
- Anti-sperm antibodies
- Malignant and non-malignant tumors
- Retrograde ejaculation, which means the semen does not emerge out of the penis but enters the bladder instead
- Medications resulting in ejaculatory issues, such as alpha blockers
- Undescended testicles
- Hormone imbalances or chromosomal defects
- Blockages within the reproductive system
Second, the environment can also have an adverse impact on sperm production. This is particularly true for the overexposure to:
- Industrial chemicals including benzenes, xylene, pesticides, and herbicides
- Heavy metals including lead
Other causes include overheating and constricting the testicles; drug use including anabolic steroids; tobacco smoking; alcohol use; prolonged or extreme emotional stress; and excess weight.
You can read more about oligospermia’s symptoms & causes here
What Are The Treatments?
Fortunately, a low sperm count need not immediately be a source of despair since there are several options that doctors can discuss.
- Surgery, an option recommended when a varicocele must be surgically remedied or a vas deferens must be repaired.
- Treatment of underlying infections affecting sperm production
- Treatments for sex-related problems including erectile dysfunction, retrograde ejaculation, and premature ejaculation
- Hormone replacement therapy and medications
- Lifestyle changes, such as avoidance of risk factors (e.g., frequent sauna sessions; tight clothes; use of illicit drugs, tobacco, and alcohol; and use of certain medications); and intake of nutritional supplements containing beneficial ingredients like zinc, vitamins A, E and C, and L-arginine.
And The Good News
Not all men with low sperm count will be unable to conceive a child with their partners. You have to consult with your doctors about the best ways to naturally conceive a child, such as increasing the frequency of sex especially near the ovulation period.
When your low sperm counts cannot be remedied by these treatment options, you and your partner can explore the option of conceiving a child via other ways.
For example, your sperm can be retrieved, fertilized with an egg in a lab dish, and implanted in the uterus (in vitro fertilization). Also, you can read more about possible treatments here