Low sperm counts can be a common cause of male infertility
Low sperm counts can be a common issue among men who are trying to get their partner pregnant. When there aren’t enough sperm to reach the egg successfully, it can be difficult to get pregnant. Fortunately, there are straightforward ways to help improve sperm counts depending on the reason.
How do I know my sperm count is low?
The first step in getting sperm counts analyzed is a semen analysis, a non-invasive test to get a snapshot of the available sperm present. A semen analysis looks at the amount of fluid and the concentration of the sperm, how many sperm are moving and swimming (motility), and how many were formed correctly (morphology). These numbers together give a total motile sperm count, which helps our San Antonio fertility doctors determine the best course of action.
Low sperm counts and their causes
Low sperm counts can be caused by hormone signaling problems or structural problems within the pelvic anatomy. Most commonly, low sperm counts are caused by the testicle not being able to produce the proper amount of sperm. This can be associated with low testosterone levels. Certain medical illnesses, tumors, and medications can cause low sperm counts. In fact, being on too much testosterone (like injections or topical gel) can cause sperm counts to be low or even absent. Rarely can a man have missing or extra genes on his chromosomes, like the Y chromosome, which can cause low sperm counts.
Varicoceles, which are varicose veins of the scrotum, can also cause low sperm counts. These dilated veins can cause the temperature inside the testicles to rise, damaging or killing sperm. It’s also been linked to lower testosterone levels, which can further impact sperm production. While varicocele can be treated with surgery, it’s not always necessary if the sperm count is not very low.
Occasionally, a man could have a blockage in the pathway leading sperm out, which can cause lower than expected numbers of sperm or volume of fluid. This is more common in men who have had prior pelvic surgeries, trauma or infection.
Lifestyle and daily habits can affect fertility
Lifestyle factors can also impact sperm count. Smoking has been shown to reduce sperm count and motility, while excessive alcohol consumption can decrease testosterone levels and sperm quality. Being overweight or obese can also negatively affect sperm production, as can exposure to environmental toxins like pesticides, lead, and industrial chemicals.
Finally, some men may have idiopathic or unexplained low sperm count, which means that no specific cause can be identified. Even when this is the case, there are well-defined ways of treating this condition.
There are many options moving forward
Low sperm counts are effectively treated depending on their causes. After our San Antonio fertility experts assess the sperm counts, hormone testing and underlying history, a fertility urologist can perform a physical examination to determine whether medications, surgery, or environmental changes are the next step. Our fertility doctors will then be able to treat the couple with assisted reproductive technologies like intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF), with high chances of success.