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What is Oligospermia

  • Published on August 12, 2022
What is Oligospermia

Semen quality is determined through several measurable properties of semen, including the level of sperm motility, sperm count, and the number and shape of sperm head abnormalities. These factors may be taken as substitutes for male fertility in certain situations.

According to WHO, an average fertile man has a semen volume of 15-200 million sperm per millilitre. Anything fewer than 15 million sperms per millilitre is diagnosed as oligospermia.

What is oligospermia?

Oligospermia is a condition where the number of sperms found in a man’s semen falls below the normal range. In such cases, the ejaculated semen during an orgasm contains fewer sperm than an average fertile man.

Oligospermia can be classified into mild, moderate or severe.

  • Mild oligospermia is a sperm count between 10 and 15 million sperm per millilitre.
  • Moderate oligospermia is when a person has a sperm count of between 5 and 10 million sperm per millilitre.
  • Severe oligospermia is when the patient has a sperm count that is way too low, i.e when the patient has 0-5 million sperm per millilitre.

Causes of oligospermia

Oligospermia can occur for a variety of reasons:

1. Varicocele

Varicocele is a swelling of the veins that can disrupt blood flow to the testicles and cause the temperature to increase inside the testicles.

This increase in temperature can negatively impact the production of sperm and hence decrease fertility in men. It is one of the most common causes of oligospermia.

2. Infections

Certain infections, such as inflammation of the epididymis (epididymitis) or testicles (orchitis) and viruses like sexually transmitted infections (STIs), can decrease sperm production or block the passage of sperm.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as gonorrhoea or HIV can also be a major player in causing low sperm count signs.

3. Issues with ejaculation

While ejaculating, if the semen enters the bladders instead of exiting from the tip of the penis, it is called retrograde ejaculation.

Health conditions such as spinal injuries, diabetes and bladder surgery can contribute to this cause. Retrograde ejaculation may, in turn, lead to low sperm count signs.

4. Tumours

Cancers and benign tumours may also affect a man’s reproductive organs, often in the form of hormonal problems with the gland that releases hormones related to reproduction. This can be another cause of oligospermia.

5. Undescended testicles

Some men are born with undescended testicles (cryptorchidism). Even though this can lead to reduced fertility, this is usually in more severe cases.

6. Medication

Several medications can impair fertility in men and reduce sperm count.

Long-term anabolic steroid use, cancer medications (chemotherapy), and ulcer medication are a few examples that might contribute to infertility and low sperm count signs.

7. Imbalances in hormones

In order for sperm to be produced, hormones from the brain and testicles are crucial.

Alterations in these hormones may impair one’s ability to produce sperm by reducing the amount of testosterone or affecting how sensitive receptors are. This may result in a low sperm count.

8. Chromosome defects

Inherited disorders can also cause abnormal development of the male reproductive organs and result in infertility.

9. Exposure to industrial chemicals and heavy metals

Extensive exposure to pesticides, cleaning agents, painting materials, and other such chemicals can contribute as one to the low sperm count signs.

Exposure to heavy metals such as lead can also cause infertility.

10. Exposure to radiation

Radiation exposure can lead to a decrease in sperm count. Once exposed, it can take several years for sperm production to go back to normal.

11. Consumption of drugs

Taking anabolic steroids to increase muscle strength can lead to the male genitals shrinking and lowering the sperm count. So, take such steroids with precaution.

12. Consumption of alcohol

Frequent consumption of alcohol can lead to a decrease in testosterone levels and lower sperm count signs, ultimately leading to infertility.

13. Emotional stress

Prolonged and severe emotional stress can also lead to a drop in sperm count.

14. Weight issues

Excess weight and obesity can make a man’s sperm less functional and impair his fertility in other ways, such as through hormonally induced changes.

Symptoms of oligospermia

For most men, oligospermia is typically asymptomatic. Usually, men do not experience any symptoms; however, an underlying condition such as a hormonal imbalance, an inherited chromosomal abnormality, and/or other medical conditions may lead to signs and symptoms.

In most cases, the only way to find out that you have oligospermia is after taking tests that determine your ability to conceive.

Few typical signs and symptoms of oligospermia might include:

  • Sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction
  • Loss of facial and body hair due to chromosomal abnormality
  • Experiencing pain in the testicle area

Treatments for oligospermia

The diagnosis and treatment of oligospermia will depend on the factors causing it.

For instance, if your problem is linked to your diet or other external factors, you’ll want to make changes before trying medications.

Having oligospermia does not necessarily mean that the fertility issues you’re experiencing are untreatable. Several treatment options available to improve sperm production and quality are available. Here are a few that can help you:

1. Surgery

If the cause of oligospermia is varicoceles, surgery is needed to close off the enlarged veins. This will redirect the flow of blood to another healthy and unaffected vein.

2. Medication

Medications like antibiotics can treat infections and inflammation. While medications do not guarantee an increase in the sperm count, they can prevent further drops in the count.

3. Lifestyle changes

One way to treat oligospermia is by making changes in your lifestyle that may or may not affect sperm production.

According to a study, obesity in men can be associated with a decline in fertility. Weight loss may help boost the sperm count and reduce chromosomal abnormalities.

Quitting drugs, alcohol and tobacco can not only lead you to a healthy life but can also improve sperm production and its quality.

4. Hormone treatments

Medication and hormone treatments can help overcome hormonal imbalances. When a healthy balance of hormones is reached, sperm numbers may improve too.

Conclusion

One of the first indicators that you’re struggling with a low sperm count may emerge when you and your partner are trying to conceive a baby.

Oligospermia could also point to other illnesses. However, this doesn’t have to stop you from taking your first steps toward parenthood. There are high chances that you can still be a parent.

To learn more regarding oligospermia and related treatments, visit Birla Fertility and IVF or book an appointment with Dr Deepika Mishra  .

FAQs

Can you get pregnant with oligospermia?

Despite lower fertility, some men can still conceive. Some men with oligospermia may have no problem conceiving, while others may have some difficulty and require more attempts than those without a fertility issue.

Does milk increase sperm count?

A recent study found that low-fat dairy foods such as milk had a positive association with higher sperm concentration and progressive motility, while cheese might inhibit sperm production.

What is the natural treatment for oligospermia?

A study shows that the amount of vitamin D in the blood is directly associated with the amount of sperm count. So, getting enough sunlight and vitamin D can be a natural way to treat oligospermia. Quitting tobacco and alcohol can also be highly beneficial.

Can I get pregnant with low sperm motility?

It depends – if the sperm quality is healthy, pregnancy is possible even with low motility.

Written by:
Dr Puja Singh

Dr Puja Singh

Dr. Puja Singh has been a senior resident at the Hindu Rao Hospital and NDMC Medical College, New Delhi and has been previously attached with Nova IVF Clinic, Ahmedabad in fertility services. She completed her post-graduation in Obs & Gynae from Hindu Rao Hospital & NDMC Medical College, New Delhi. She completed her FNB training in reproductive medicine.She has done fellowship in Minimal Access Surgery from AMASI. Her main area of interest is reproductive medicine. She has done her MBBS & Internship at Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar Hospital, Raipur. She is dexterous and precise in surgical treatment procedures. 

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