Oligospermia, or a lower sperm count, occurs when there about 15 to 20 million sperm per milliliter of semen after an ejaculation. A normal sperm count usually ranges from 40 to 300 million per milliliter. Although a low sperm count may make it harder for a man to impregnate a partner naturally, the actual health and function of the sperm may not be affected, meaning that some treatments””like artificial insemination””are very successful once the sperm reaches an egg.
A man’s sperm count can be affected by a number of medicines, diseases, environmental circumstances, and lifestyle choices. For instance, SSRIs, steroids, and alpha blockers are just a couple of medicines that could affect sperm count. Because the hormone testosterone helps produce sperm, diseases that lower testosterone””like COPD, kidney disease, diabetes, etc.–can all cause a low count.
Some men may be completely healthy or off of medication but still have a low count due to their home or work surroundings. For instance, exposure to pesticides, radiation, or organic solvents can certainly have a negative effect. If a man enjoys recreational drugs, then those chemicals can damage sperm DNA.
If a man has already been diagnosed with an illness, like kidney disease, or a genetic disorder, like Klinefelter syndrome, then a low sperm count will actually be a symptom for that specific condition. However, if a man isn’t previously diagnosed with a condition, then signs that can indicate a low sperm count include pain or lumps in the testicular region, a low sex drive, little body hair, poor muscle tone, a history of prostate or testicular issues, ejaculation difficulties, and osteoporosis.
Low sperm count can be caused by a number of health issues. One of these is the varicocele or the swelling of the veins that drain the testicle. Varicocele is related to an abnormal testicular temperature regulation and is a common cause of male infertility since it affects sperm quality. Some infections such as epididymis or orchitis as well as some sexually transmitted infections like HIV and gonorrhea have also been linked with low sperm count. These infections interfere with sperm production as well as sperm health. In addition, some of these infections cause scarring that blocks sperm passage. Low sperm count has also been attributed to ejaculation problems. Retrograde ejaculation, for instance, occurs when semen ends up in the bladder instead of the emerging through the tip of the penis during sex. Retrograde or lack of ejaculation has been linked to various health problems like spinal injury, diabetes as well as surgical procedures on the bladder, urethra or prostate.
Low sperm count has also been linked to certain environmental elements. Prolonged exposure to industrial chemicals like xylene, toluene, benzenes, organic solvents and some pesticides can contribute to low sperm count. Other environmental causes of low sperm count include exposure to heavy metals like lead, exposure to radiation as well as overheating of the testicles.
Finally, studies have found a strong connection between health and lifestyle choices and low sperm count. Drug abuse, smoking, alcohol use, emotional stress, and weight gain are some of the health and lifestyle choices that affect an individual’s sperm count.
Even if a man decides he doesn’t want to father a child, it is still recommended he seek out treatment“”low-sperm symptoms could be indicative of another underlying condition. Taking testosterone pellets, patches, or creams is a common treatment route if other conditions have been ruled out. If a man’s sperm are relatively healthy despite a low count, he can try in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intrauterine insemination (IUI).
To prevent low sperm count and protect their fertility, men are advised to avoid factors that can compromise sperm count and quality. A 2013 study found that overweight men with a waist circumference greater than 40 inches are 20 times more likely to have low sperm count.
Diet plays an important role in sperm quality and quantity. Men who consume processed meat (bacon, sausage and luncheon meat) on a regular basis have significantly lower sperm counts than men who consume white or lean meat. Men who eat fish (tuna, trout or salmon) on a regular basis have, according to a Harvard conducted research, up to 65% greater sperm concentration than men who rarely eat fish.
Other low sperm count prevention mechanisms include abstinence from alcohol, smoking and hard drugs. Stress management, as well as reduced exposure to industrial chemicals, radiation, and pesticides, are also important preventive measures for low sperm count.