The production of sperm is a complex process and requires normal functioning of the testicles (testes) as well as the hypothalamus and pituitary glands — organs in your brain that produce hormones that
trigger sperm production. Once sperm are produced in the testicles, delicate tubes transport them until they mix with semen and are ejaculated out of the penis. Problems with any of these systems can affect sperm production. Also, there are problems of abnormal sperm shape (morphology) or movement (motility).
Often indiscriminate consumption of alcohol has been linked to low sperm count.
What does low sperm count mean?
Low sperm count means that the fluid (semen) a man ejaculates during orgasm contains fewer sperm than normal. It is also referred to as oligospermia. This is a condition where a man's sperm count is not good enough to impregnate a woman.
The sperm count is considered lower than normal if a man has fewer than 15 million sperm per millilitre of semen. So, when a man's sperm is low, he may not be able to impregnate his wife. A low sperm count is not related to sexual anxiety or poor performance, it only relates to the volume and quality of sperm that the man produces.
What causes low sperm count?
The exact factor is unknown. However, the commonest cause is varicocele (an enlargement of the veins in the scrotum) which is a common cause of low sperm production and decreased sperm quality. It is directly linked to infertility. However, not all varicocele affects sperm production. Varicocele can also cause testicles to shrink. But there are different factors that can cause low sperm count. For example, low sperm count is often due to a genetic defect. Men who suffer from Cystic Fibrosis, for example, may have a missing or an obstructed vas deferens (which is the tube that carries sperm).
Another relatively common genetic cause for low sperm count is Klinefelter Syndrome. Sufferers of Klinefelter Syndrome have two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome.
What are the symptoms?
The commonest symptom is that semen will look watery. So when a man ejaculates into the woman, it will feel as if he hasn't ejaculated. Another symptom is that the semen will reduce in volume. A woman should know when a man has ejaculated, but when a man with low sperm count ejaculates, she wouldn't feel anything. It is possible for a woman to know when a man ejaculates. Ejaculation could be compared to water rush, so when a man who has a high or normal volume of sperm count releases into her, she will feel a rush. However, the primary symptom of low sperm count is the inability to get a partner pregnant within a year of trying to conceive.
Is this condition related to one's age?
It is age-related in a way. It is more common in elderly people than in young men. A man who is 60 is likely to have lower sperm than a man who is 25. But this does not mean the elderly have low sperm count. The fact is that the sperm count in old age can vary greatly from one man to the next man. Some men may have a relatively high sperm count well into their 80s. However, this seems to be the exception, rather than the rule when it comes to the decrease in sperm count in old age.
Can a man who has low sperm count impregnate a woman?
Yes he can. A man with low sperm count does not mean he has no sperm at all, it's just that the sperm are few. When a man with low sperm count meets a woman who is extremely fertile, the woman will be impregnated. But when a man with low sperm count meets a woman who isn't very fertile, she may not get pregnant.
What are the effects of low sperm count?
One of the effects is unsatisfactory sexual encounter in couples and more significantly, infertility in marriage.
Can this condition be treated?
If the condition(low sperm count) is as a result of hormonal imbalance, hormone-based medicines prescribed could help resolve the condition, because the body secretes insufficient or too many hormones that play an important role in helping many internal organs, including the reproductive system, to function properly. Secondly, surgery is also used as a method of treatment for low sperm count, when the problem is caused by an inflammation of a blood vessel that irrigates the testicles.
Does excessive alcohol cause low sperm count?
Yes, excessive alcohol intake causes low sperm count. Research shows that beer contains estrogen which is a female hormone. So this hormone, when frequently taken can lead to low sperm count. Smoking also causes reduction of sperm count; wearing tight pants also causes low sperm count. A man who takes drugs and marijuana may eventually have low sperm count.
Studies say sleep problems can lower the fertility of young men? How true is this?
It is not very convincing. There is no direct link between sleep problems and infertility in men. However, it could be that some of the conditions that make people have insomnia may cause low sperm count.
What about recent findings that say men who watch television a lot may develop low sperm count?
There is also no direct link between men watching television a lot and low sperm count. In my opinion, no conclusive study has been done to prove this.
Are there statistics of low sperm count in Nigeria?
It is impossible majorly because Nigeria's health care system is not organised. Not everyone goes to the hospital, and even the small percentage of people who visit the hospital will not want to have a sperm count test. It is not a common practice among Nigerian men. This is worrisome because the level of infertility in Nigeria is high.
What is the first thing a man who thinks he has low sperm count should do?
It can be difficult for a man with a fertility problem to know what exactly he should do. There is the embarrassing fact that he has a problem with his sperm. In many cases, the man feels as though he is less than a man. But it's important for a man who thinks he has low sperm count to visit a urologist, who will then examine him and find out whether or not he has low sperm count. If the man has low sperm count, the urologist will find out the cause and treat it accordingly.
What are the things men can do to improve their sperm count?
There are several supplements available that have a variety of vitamins and minerals that may help you with your low sperm count. Keeping at least three days between ejaculations may also help to keep your sperm count higher.