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Low Sperm Count


Disease: Low Sperm Count Low Sperm Count
Category: Sexual diseases
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Disease Definition:

One of the causes of male infertility is low sperm count (oligospermia). The odds of a single sperm reaching the egg are very low despite the fact that it only takes a single sperm to fertilize an egg (ovum). That's why a man’s chance of getting his partner pregnant will be decreased due to this condition. The lower the sperm count is, the more difficult it will be to have a child.

There are effective treatments for male infertility associated with low sperm count.
Urologists could evaluate men with fertility problems and recommend treatment to them, in addition to their female partner to increase her fertility. When low sperm count is a factor, artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization could be used in case other treatments aren't effective.

Work Group:

Prepared by: Scientific Section

Symptoms, Causes


The inability to conceive a child is usually the only sign of low sperm count for most men. If a couple is unable to conceive after one year of regular intercourse, they are considered infertile. A man may experience decreased facial or body hair, problems with sexual function or other signs and symptoms in case his sperm production is impaired by an underlying hormonal problem.


Some of the possible reasons for low sperm count may be:

Damaged sperm ducts:
The delicate duct system that carries sperm from the testicles into the penis could be damaged due to inherited conditions, injuries, infections or surgeries.

This is a common cause of male infertility. It is a swollen vein inside the scrotum that could affect sperm production. A minor surgery could repair this condition.

Problems with sperm production:
A genetic (inherited) condition such as Klinefelter's syndrome or a hormonal disorder such as a health problem that affects the pituitary gland in the brain could cause these issues. A man is more likely to have complete lack of sperm in his semen (azoospermia) in case he has an inherited condition.

Anti-sperm antibodies:
This condition is quite common in men who have had a vasectomy reversal. However, it could also be caused by infection, injury or other problems. In case a man has this condition, then his immune system will attack his own sperm.

Listed below are some of the factors that increase a man’s risk of low sperm count:


  • Substance abuse (marijuana, cocaine)
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Genetic or hormonal problems
  • Exposure to environmental toxins such as some medications, certain chemicals, radiation therapy and heat
  • Smoking or secondhand smoke
  • Cancer treatment (chemotherapy and radiation treatment)
  • Certain injuries or surgeries, especially those that affect the glands that produce hormones or the testicles.



Male infertility could be caused by low sperm count.


What causes the low sperm count will also determine the treatment. In some cases, the exact cause could never be found. Despite this, a man could still be recommended a treatment that could help his partner get pregnant. The doctor will also want to make sure that the female partner has been evaluated. To help compensate for low sperm count and increase the chance of pregnancy, the female partner could get treatment to boost her fertility.  

Some of the treatment options for low sperm count may include:

A man may have an infection of the reproductive tract that could affect sperm production in case a blood test reveals high numbers of white blood cells. Even though antibiotics can't restore fertility, they can cure the infection.

As mentioned before, this condition is a common cause of male infertility. A reduced sperm count and abnormally shaped sperm could be caused by a varicocele, which is a swollen vein in the scrotum. The sperm count could be improved and chances of pregnancy increased if a man gets his varicocele surgically repaired.

A man may be recommended hormone treatment (gonadotropin injections) in case the hypothalamus or pituitary glands in his brain aren't producing normal hormone levels. Sometimes, to achieve normal fertility, he may need to receive regular injections for a complete year.

Because only a small number of sperm are needed, these procedures, which are also called ARTs, are an effective treatment for men with a low sperm count. They include:

IVF (In vitro fertilization):
In this procedure, to stimulate egg production in the ovaries, the female partner will receive daily hormone injections for 5 to 12 days. Once the eggs have matured, they will be removed from the ovaries and combined with sperm in the laboratory. Then, these fertilized eggs will be placed into the woman's uterus.

ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection):
In this procedure, a single sperm from the male partner will be injected into the female egg. This method could be done along with IVF.


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