Low sperm count means that the fluid (semen) you ejaculate during an orgasm contains fewer sperm than normal. There are many causes of low sperm count including medical, lifestyle, alcohol consumption, drugs and so on. If you have been trying hard to conceive but have been unsuccessful, there is possibility that you might have a low sperm count that is your semen contains less sperms than the normal amount.
Low sperm count lessens chances of being able to fertilize your partner’s egg, hence reducing chances of pregnancy. Problems with sperm, including a low sperm count and problems with sperm quality, are quite common. They’re a factor in around 1 in 3 couples who are struggling to get pregnant. However, it is also true that many men with a low sperm count are also able to have children.
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Symptoms of low sperm count
Like causes there is no particular symptom of low sperm count. The main sign of low sperm count is the inability to conceive a child. There might be no other obvious signs or symptoms. In some men, an underlying problem such as an inherited chromosomal abnormality, a hormonal imbalance, dilated testicular veins or a condition that blocks the passage of sperm may cause signs and symptom which isn’t the same as having symptoms of low sperm count.
Some of the symptoms of these problems which causes low sperm count include:
- Low sex drive or difficulty maintaining an erection.
- Swelling or pain in or around the testicles
- Less facial or body hair
- Other sign of hormonal imbalance or chromosome abnormality.
How to increase sperm count? Read to know about 14 things to boost male fertility.
Causes of low sperm count
There are many causes of low sperm count which include all medical, environmental and lifestyle issues. If you ask what causes low sperm count there is no particular answer to this but here are some of the reasons that can cause low sperm count which are divided into two categories, one is medical causes and second is environmental and lifestyle causes.
Medical causes of low sperm count
There are number of health condition and treatment which can cause low sperm count.
1. Hormonal imbalance
The hypothalamus, pituitary and testicles produce hormones that are necessary to create sperm. Any imbalance to these hormones may affect sperm production. Imbalance in thyroid hormone can also cause low sperm count so make sure you keep checking your blood hormonal level to rule out any kind of imbalance.
2. Sexually transmitted infections or other infections
Some infections can interfere with sperm production or sperm health or can cause scarring that blocks the passage of sperm which include inflammation of the epididymis or testicles and some sexually transmitted infections, including gonorrhea or HIV.
A varicocele is a swelling of the veins that drain the testicle. It can reduce the quality of sperm. It’s the most common reversible cause of male infertility.
4. Issues with erections
Many health conditions including diabetes, blood pressure spinal injuries, and surgery of the bladder, prostate or urethra can cause issue with erection or retrograde ejaculation. Retrograde ejaculation occurs when semen enters the bladder during orgasm instead of emerging out of the tip of the penis.
5. Chromosome defects
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 which can affect male fertility and can cause low sperm count.
6. Autoimmune conditions
Sometime there is an issue with immune system in which immune system make anti-sperm antibodies that mistakenly identify sperm as harmful invaders and attempt to destroy them. Sometime Celiac disease which is an autoimmune digestive disorder can also cause male infertility.
7. Genetics issues
Low sperm count can be because of genetics issues also. Some conditions like cystic fibrosis or being a genetic carrier of cystic fibrosis may block sperm from entering the semen which can cause low sperm count.
Cancers and nonmalignant tumors can affect the male reproductive organs directly. Any type of life saving treatment for these problems like surgery, radiation or chemotherapy can also affect male fertility and can also cause low sperm count.
9. Certain medications
Men who have used anabolic steroids for extended periods of time may experience a low sperm count as a result. In many cases, these side effects are temporary, and fertility is restored after simply stopping the medication.
Similarly some other medications like testosterone replacement therapy, certain antifungal and antibiotic medications or some ulcer medications can cause low sperm count and affect male fertility.
10. Past surgeries
Previous surgery to the male reproductive system, such as testicular surgery, bladder surgery, surgery for undescended testicles, inguinal hernia repair, and a vasectomy might prevent you from having sperm in your ejaculate. These surgeries can cause low sperm count or can block the normal flow of sperm, and/or lead to retrograde (backward) ejaculation.
Environmental and lifestyle causes
Some of the environmental factors and lifestyle habits can affect sperm quality and male fertility. However Most of them are easy to fix and change in certain lifestyle habit can show you improvement.
1. Heavy metal or industrial chemical exposure
Exposure to lead or other heavy metals also can cause infertility. Exposure to some of industrial chemicals like herbicides, pesticides, organic solvents, painting materials on daily bases can cause low sperm count.
2. Overheating testicles
A man’s testicles need to stay cooler than the rest of his body in order to manufacture sperm. This means that anything from frequently enjoying hot tubs and saunas to sitting with your computer on your lap may lower your sperm counts.
3. X-ray radiation
Exposure to radiation from X-rays or other sources may harm sperm production as well. It can take several years for sperm production to return to normal. With high doses of radiation, sperm production can be permanently reduced.
4. Smoking and drinking
Smoking cigarettes has been proven to decrease fertility in men. It affects sperm volume, sperm count, and sperm motility, its ability to swim. Smoking also makes ART like IVF treatment less successful.
Drinking alcohol can lower testosterone levels and cause decreased sperm production. Chronic alcohol abuse has been linked to infertility and can be a cause of low sperm count as well.
5. Obesity or overweight
Almost 3 out of 4 men in the U.S. are overweight or obese, and 35 percent are obese. Low sperm count is associated with having more body fat and a higher BMI. Obesity lowers testosterone levels, which drive sperm production and can cause low sperm count or affect male fertility.
6. Stress or depression
Stress is bad for everything and can be a cause of many health conditions. Severe or prolonged emotional stress might interfere with hormones needed to produce sperm. Being depressed may negatively affect sperm concentration.
7. Wearing tight cloths
Wearing tight clots like tight boxers or jeans and sitting jobs can also cause low sperm count. Try to wear loose and comfortable cloths and avoid continues sitting.
8. Drugs usage
Activities like heavy drug and alcohol use can cause low sperm count. Anabolic steroids taken to stimulate muscle strength and growth can cause the testicles to shrink and sperm production to decrease. Similarly use of cocaine or marijuana might reduce the number and quality of your sperm as well.