Oligospermia, known as low sperm count in layman’s terms, refers to the presence of fewer than 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen.
Keep in mind that you will not actually be able to count your sperm since these are microscopic in size – only a laboratory test can determine the insufficiency of sperm in your semen.
You will also not be able to determine whether you have oligospermia based on observable symptoms in a short-term period.
When you have a low sperm count, you will not experience any symptom, such as pain in the pelvic area, unless you have an underlying medical condition that contributed to your oligospermia.
Your main health condition is asymptomatic, thus, the silent symptom. You may experience signs and symptoms related to the underlying causes of low sperm count, such as a hormonal imbalance, a chromosomal abnormality, or dilated testicular veins.
Other possible symptoms that can identify a low sperm count include:
- Sexual function issues, such as low sex drive or erectile dysfunction
- Lump in the testicle area, which may or may not be accompanied by pain and swelling
- Decreased body or facial hair, among other signs of hormone imbalance
Emphasis must be made, however, that these symptoms can also be signs of other health conditions, such as cancer (i.e., lump). You should then consult with your doctor if and when you suspect other causes behind your symptoms aside from oligospermia.
Instead, you will suspect that you may have low sperm count because of your apparent inability to father a child regardless of the methods that you have adopted for it.
You may have engaged in more frequent sex especially during your partner’s fertile period yet have experienced no success in the area.
When should you see a doctor for possible low sperm count? If you have been unable to impregnate your partner after a year of regular and unprotected (i.e., no condom and birth control pills) sex, then you should see your doctor.
See Your Doctor!
You should also see your doctor under the following circumstances:
- Problems with your erection and/or ejaculation as well as low sex drive, among other problems with your sexual function
- Pain, discomfort, and swelling as well as a lump in your testicle area
- History of illnesses or injuries to the testicle or prostate
- Surgery to the groin, penis, testicle, or scrotum
You should not hesitate about seeking your doctor’s opinion about these matters because your overall health is at stake. Your doctor will be more than likely to adopt a compassionate yet professional approach to your complaints.
Scientists have identified several possible causes of low sperm count.
Sperm production is a complex and complicated process that requires the normal functioning of several parts of the body specifically the testicles, hypothalamus, and pituitary glands; the last two are organs in the brain that produce hormones essential in sperm production.
When sperm are produced in the testicles, they are transported in delicate tubes and mixed with semen until their ejaculation out of the penis. Any problem with any of these organs can affect normal sperm production.
Low sperm count can be caused by a variety of issues.
#1 Medical Causes
First, the medical causes pertain to the illnesses and injuries that occurred in the male reproductive system including:
- Varicocele, a swelling of the veins involved in draining the testicles
- Infection, such as orchitis, epididymitis, and sexually transmitted diseases (e.g., HIV), which causes scarring in the delicate tubes that transport the sperm
- Ejaculation problems specially retrograde ejaculation caused by underlying medical conditions and/or medications
- Presence of anti-sperm antibodies
- Undescended testicles
- Hormone imbalances
- Defects in the tubules transporting the sperm
- Blockage in any of the parts
- Chromosome defects
- Prior surgeries
#2 Harmful Environmental Elements
Second, low sperm count can also be the result of overexposure to harmful environmental elements including:
- Industrial chemicals
- Heavy metals
- X-rays and other forms of radiation
- Overheating of the testicles (e.g., frequent sauna baths)
#3 Lifestyle Habits
Third, lifestyle habits can also contribute to low sperm count. These include illicit drug use; alcohol use; wearing of tight clothes; sitting for long periods; tobacco smoking; prolonged or severe emotional stress; and being overweight.
When you and your doctor have identified the most possible cause of your low sperm count, your treatment plan will likely be more effective.