Low sperm count is an indicator of male infertility
Low sperm count, or a low concentration of sperm cells in a man’s ejaculate, can be an indication of problems with fertility. There may be many causes for a low sperm count and targeted treatment may help men overcome this obstacle.
A semen analysis is used to determine if a man has a low sperm count. A semen analysis primarily looks at three main factors related to sperm: sperm concentration (count), sperm motility (or the percent of sperm that are actively swimming), and sperm morphology (shape). Sperm concentration is calculated by measuring under a microscope the number of sperm present in a man’s ejaculate, or semen.
Normal sperm concentration is at least 20 million per mL, whereas normal motility is at least 50% and normal morphology is at least 15%. While there are many other important factors involved in a semen analysis – such as seminal volume, the presence or absence of white blood cells, and the quality of sperm movement (to name a few), most focus on sperm concentration.
Low sperm count usually requires further testing
There are many possible causes to a low sperm count, and your Fertility Answers team can help you get to the bottom of this through further discussion and testing. In most cases of low sperm count, your Fertility Answers team can successfully address the problem and treat nearly all cases of male factor infertility. Some cases can be treated with minor lifestyle changes, while others may require medication or laboratory assistance in the form of either intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF).
However, some cases of low sperm count may warrant a referral to a urologist who specializes in male fertility. If this is needed, Fertility Answers works with the best ones in South Louisiana who can address your problem. Regardless, low sperm count is generally treatable and there is an excellent prognosis for nearly all men who pursue treatment.
Causes of low sperm count
Some causes of low sperm count may be readily discovered through a discussion with your Fertility Answers physician. Other causes may require further testing to uncover.
- Lifestyle Factors – Certain habits can put you at risk for fertility problems. These include alcohol abuse, smoking cigarettes and vaping, poor diet and obesity, and drugs including cocaine and marijuana. In extreme cases, prolonged exposure of the testes to heat (such as a hot tub) and long-distance cycling can also affect a man’s sperm count.
- Environmental Factors – Certain occupations or even where you live can cause increased exposures to toxic chemicals, heavy metals, pesticides, paint and solvents can cause problems in sperm.
- Low-T Therapy and Anabolic Steroids – Popular low-T therapies have a depressing effect on sperm count. Similarly, taking anabolic steroids for extended periods of time also decreases sperm production. In most cases, the damage is temporary and stopping these drugs can restore normal sperm production within a few months.
- Hormonal Imbalances – Hormones drive sperm production and sometimes faulty signals between the brain, pituitary and testicles can halt or lower production. Further testing can confirm whether a hormonal imbalance may be the cause of low sperm count.
- Prior Surgeries, Health Issues or Infections – Certain surgeries, diabetes, spinal cord injuries as well as infections like mumps, sexually transmitted diseases or urinary tract infections can leave scars that block the normal flow of sperm or lead to retrograde (backward) ejaculation.
- Genetic Issues or Chronic Disease – While very rare, genetic diseases, such Y chromosome microdeletions or cystic fibrosis, can cause low or absent sperm counts in men. Additionally, chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure can also cause low sperm count.
- Cancer Therapies – Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can destroy or greatly diminish a man’s sperm count. Fertility Answers offers fertility preservation sperm freezing prior to cancer treatment to proactively protect future fertility.
- Previous Vasectomy – Even if you have had a vasectomy reversal, sperm flow may not have been fully restored through surgery.
- Structural Problems with the Penis or Testicles – Structural problems with the penis that can cause a man’s sperm count to plummet include Peyronie’s disease (in which plaque and/or scar tissue builds up in the penis), as well as problems with inflammation and scar tissue that can interfere with the normal ejaculatory process. A varicocele is present in up to 40 percent of men with fertility issues, and is a condition that can occasionally affect fertility. While most men with a varicocele will not need or benefit from surgery, the condition warrants a conversation with a fertility specialist.
Effective treatment for low sperm count is available
If you have tried to get pregnant for more than a year, or six months if your female partner is over 35, ask us about a male fertility assessment and semen analysis. We can easily assess data on sperm health, and recommend a course of action that can help. In many cases, low sperm count is temporary and treatable through lifestyle changes, treatment, or surgery. Additionally, advanced reproductive technologies, such as intrauterine insemination or IVF can overcome low sperm count obstacles to pregnancy.
Contact our Fertility Answers specialists today.