A low sperm concentration is among the top causes of infertility in men. Other common causes of male infertility include low motility of the sperm, impaired shape of semen or lack of semen. The low sperm concentration may be caused by different factors including genetics, aging, stress or nutritional deficiencies. Determining these factors is the first step towards finding a suitable treatment.
Causes of Low Sperm Concentration
There are a lot of causes that may lead to low sperm concentration including:
- Aging is a contributing factor, and men over the age of 39 typically have a lower sperm count
- Stress causes a hormonal imbalance and lower sperm production
- Sexual problems leading to erectile dysfunction
- Lubricants that may kill semen
- Overheating (exposure to saunas, hot water, fever) of the testicles causes temporary low sperm count
- Cocaine or marijuana use
- Smoking contributes to low sperm count and also to sperm low motility
- Nutritional deficiencies such as lack of sufficient vitamin C, zinc or folic acid
- Obesity is suspected to affect the sperm count
- Bicycling or motorcycling may affect the sperm concentration and may also lead to impotence, as the bike seat may damage certain nerves that control erections (mountain biking or off terrain biking is more dangerous than biking on streets)
- Genetics and certain genetic disorders such as cystic fibrosis, Klinefelter syndrome or Kartagener syndrome
- Exposure to toxins, harmful chemicals
- Frequent exposure to heavy metals such as lead (Pb), arsenic (As) or cadmium (Cd), which stops the production of the enzyme that is essential in the formation of the membrane covering the sperm head
- Frequent infections
- Radiation treatment and chemotherapy
- Tube structural abnormalities
- Varicocele, a varicose vein in the testicle area, may not cause infertility, but it is suspected to affect sperm count
- Reproductive system surgery
Detecting Low Sperm Concentration
An analysis of the semen can detect a low sperm concentration. Levels under 0.5 milliliters per sample are considered low sperm concentration. The doctor may perform additional tests to find the cause of the low sperm count.
The treatment will be adapted to the nature of the problem. If the low sperm concentration is due to a physical problem, this may be solved by administrating some vitamins and hormones. Surgery may be required if there are structural abnormalities in the tubes that conduct the sperm. If the patient is stressed, the stress factors should be eliminated and therapy may be recommended. Therapy may also be helpful in solving sexual issues. Smoking and cocaine or marijuana use should be discontinued and the sperm count should get back to normal. The lubricants used should be checked, and they should be semen friendly.
Genetic conditions may not be treated and the low sperm count may not be helped, but there are other conception alternatives available such as in vitro fertilization.