Low Sperm Count: Causes & Treatment

A male is said to have a low sperm count when the semen ejaculated during an orgasm is fewer than 15 million per milliliter of semen. A lower-than-normal sperm count is also referred to as oligospermia, while a complete lack of sperm in the semen is called azoospermia. A low sperm count in male does lessen the possibility of fertilizing the female’s egg, but it does not mean one cannot become a father.

What Causes Low Sperm Count?

1. Medical Causes

There are a number of medical causes that may result in low sperm count. Some of the major medical causes include:

  • Infection diseases: Infections like sexual transmitted infections, inflamed testicles and urinary tract infection can block the sperm production.
  • Swelling of veins: The swelling of the veins drains the testicles and thus, prevent the normal cooling of the testicles, which leads to reduction of sperm count and male infertility to some extent.
  • Retrograde ejaculation problems: Retrograde ejaculation is caused by various health conditions such as spinal injury or diabetes, causing the semen to enter the bladder instead of emerging out of the penis during orgasm.
  • Anti-sperm antibodies: These are immune system cells that may mistake sperms as harmful in the body and thus try to destroy them.
  • Cancer or tumors: These conditions can affect the male reproductive organs directly or indirectly by affecting the reproductive hormonal glands.
  • Hormone imbalances: Alteration of the hormones that create sperms can also reduce sperm production.
  • Sperm duct problems: Damage, injury, and blockage in the epididymis (part of the testicle that stores sperm) or blockage of the tubes carrying sperms out of the testicles (vas deferens) maybe the cause of lower-than-normal sperm count.
  • Inherited disorders: Some people are born with some inherited disorders, such as chromosomal defects, which lead to abnormal development of the male reproductive organs.
  • Prescribed medications: Some medications like testosterone replacement therapy, chemotherapy and long term use of anabolic steroid may negatively affect male fertility.
  • Digestive disorder: This disorder, celiac disease is caused due to the sensitivity to gluten and may also cause male infertility.

2. Environmental Causes

Prolonged exposure to some environmental elements can affect the male reproduction organs.

  • Exposure to chemicals: Chemicals such as painting materials, pesticides, organic solvents benzenes, toluene, xylene, and heavy metal like lead may cause low sperm counts.
  • Exposure to radiation: Radiation can cause a reduction in sperm production; with prolonged exposure, it can cause permanent sperm production.
  • Overheating testicles: Such activities like prolonged bicycling, sitting for long periods, prolonged use of laptop on the lap, as well as tight clothing may increase the temperature in the scrotum and can significantly reduce the sperm production.

3. Health, Lifestyle and Other Causes

Some of the habits and lifestyle that may affect male reproduction organs include:

  • Exploiting unlawful drugs: Some illegal drugs taken to stimulate muscles such as anabolic steroids result in lessening the sperm production by shrinking the testicles.
  • Alcohol abuse: Prolonged use of alcohol may lower testosterone levels, affecting sperm production.
  • Job: Some occupations such as those involving use of computer or industrial chemicals may increase the risk of infertility.
  • Tobacco smoking: People who smoke are at a higher risk of infertility than those who don’t.
  • Severe emotional stress: Prolonged emotional stress like infertility stress may interfere with hormones responsible for producing sperm.
  • Obesity: Being overweight increases the risk of infertility.
  • Incorrect sperm tests: The sample taken to test sperm count may not be a good representation of the sperm population and thus, severe samples taken over a period are needed.
  • Surgical procedures: Some conditions like swelling of the veins or sperm duct problems can be fixed by surgical procedures.
  • Antibiotics: Infections of the reproductive tract can be cured with antibiotics though the treatment may not restore fertility.
  • Hormone replacement and medications: Hormone medication and treatments can improve hormone levels and sperm counts.

How to Treat Low Sperm Count

1. Medical Treatment

  • Surgical procedures: Some conditions like swelling of the veins or sperm duct problems can be fixed by surgical procedures.
  • Antibiotics: Infections of the reproductive tract can be cured with antibiotics though the treatment may not restore fertility.
  • Hormone replacement and medications: Hormone medication and treatments can improve hormone levels and sperm counts.

2. Home Remedies

  • Frequent sexual intercourse: Engaging in sexual intercourse with you partner frequently increases the chances of getting your partner pregnant, but avoid ejaculating more than that as this may reduce your sperm count all together.
  • Knowing ovulation: Having sex with your partner every two days near her ovulation increases the chances of pregnancy since the possibility of fertilization is higher during this period.
  • Use of safe lubricants: Natural cervical fluid is the finest lubricant for conception because some lubricants such as KY Jelly and Astroglide can kill your sperm.

3. Tips on Increasing Sperm Count

Some lifestyle choices can also lead to a low sperm count in male. Below are some of the tips to prevent low sperm count:

  • Consider using of regular vitamin and fertility supplement like folic acid.
  • Quit smoking as it decreases your sperm count.
  • Avoid overstaying in the sauna, jacuzzi or tight underwear as these may increase the temperature, thus reducing the sperm production.
  • Do some relaxation exercises to avoid excessive stress which may cause hormonal problems that are responsible for infertility.
  • It is essential to maintain a healthy weight, which is not too underweight or overweight as weight influences estrogen and testosterone levels.  
  • Keep off steroids and drugs which can cause testicular shrinkage.
  • Avoid over exercising as it may cause high levels of adrenal steroid hormones leading to testosterone deficiency.
  • Use protective gear when handling industrial chemical and toxins.
  • Eat a healthy diet, sleep well and keep hydrated to avoid malnutrition and anemia which can negatively impact the sperm count.