Wondering What is Oligospermia?
Low Sperm Count (oligospermia) is a condition characterized by decreased sperm concentration in semen. As per WHO, sperm count as low as 15 million sperm per millilitre of semen can affect the chances of a successful pregnancy.
Different low sperm count signs and symptoms of oligospermia are mainly observed due to chromosomal abnormalities, hormonal imbalances, or even blockage of ducts. Oligospermia treatment is known to improve sperm numbers and quality.
It’s a fact that a single sperm indeed is enough to fertilize the ovum. However, the journey of sperms starts with more than 250 million sperms ejaculated from the urethra. But only a few hundreds of them move towards the ovum and only one sperm fuses with the ovum. Studies show that low sperm count signs can create less motile sperms and in turn it can affect the chances of conception. Usually people who get diagnosed with oligospermia also ask questions like if being infertile permanent or if infertility can be cured.
This article covers the following:
- What does oligospermia mean exactly
- how are low sperm count signs and infertility related
- how oligospermia can affect pregnancy success
- how oligospermia treatment in Delhi or elsewhere can help address the fertility problems created with it.
1. What is Oligospermia (Low Sperm Count)?
Low sperm count signs or oligospermia, means that the ejaculated semen contains fewer sperms than normal. The normal sperm count during ejaculation ranges from 15 million to greater than 200 million sperm per millilitre of semen (million sperm/mL).
Diagnosis of oligospermia is done by a semen analysis that can help find the sperm count. Oligospermia can be classified into three different types depending on the number of sperms present in the semen. They are:
- Mild oligospermia: A condition where the sperm count is anywhere around 10 – 15 million sperm/mL.
- Moderate oligospermia: A condition diagnosed with sperm count between 5 – 10 million sperm/mL.
- Severe oligospermia: A condition where the sperm numbers are less than 5 million sperm/mL.
How common is oligospermia? According to W.H.O’s multicentre study, around 30-40% of infertility is because of male infertility factors, and almost 45% of infertile males are known to be affected by oligospermia or low sperm concentration.
2. Oligospermia and infertility overview
Now that we know what oligospermia is, let’s understand how the low sperm count signs are linked with fertility problems. When the couple is unable to attain pregnancy after trying for more than a year, the couple is diagnosed with infertility.
It is observed that men with low sperm count do face problems with fertility as the sperm cannot fertilize with the egg and it takes more attempts for fertilization than the normal fertile couples.
In some cases, oligospermia can cause low sperm motility; A condition where the sperms fail to swim through to reach and fertilize the egg. This is because only a few thousands of eggs reach the fallopian tubes and the rest disintegrate or die in the process. Of the few thousand that reach the fallopian tubules, and few hundreds come closer to the ovum. This number decreases even more in the case of low sperm count and this is how oligospermia works causing less motile sperms and fertility issues.
morphologically poor sperms and sperms with abnormal morphology can cause problems with fertility.
Certain studies of the male reproductive system and andrology have shown that psychological stress can interfere in the spermatogenesis process (production of sperms) and reduce the testosterone levels that can cause low sperm count signs and infertility.
Also Read: Hyperspermia
3. Symptoms/Signs of Oligospermia
In couples who are unable to conceive, this medical condition called oligospermia can be diagnosed. Following are the symptoms of oligospermia.
- Pain, swelling, or lump in the testicle region is one of the primary low sperm count signs
- Erectile dysfunction where the erection cannot be maintained during sexual intercourse.
- Less facial and body hair growth
- Presence of a thick discharge during ejaculation can show low sperm count signs.
- Varicocele where the veins in the scrotum are thick and swollen
- Problems during ejaculation and low sex drive are also relative symptoms of oligospermia.
4. What are the causes of Oligospermia?
Adequate sperm production is ensured when the hormonal glands and testes function normally. The sperms produced in the testicles are stored in the epididymis and transported via delicate tubes along with semen while ejaculation. Problems in the system of production and transportation lead to oligospermia causing low sperm count signs. Causes of oligospermia include:
- Varicocele: Low sperm count or reduction in sperm quality is seen when the veins that drain the testicles swell or become bulged. This condition is called varicocele. Varicocele is one of the leading causes of oligospermia.
- Infections: Some infections like inflammation of the epididymis (epididymitis), testicles, HIV, gonorrhea, etc can reduce sperm production and sperm integrity. Some infections are known to cause scarring that blocks the ducts and hamper passage of sperms.
- Ejaculation issues: Retrograde ejaculation is a condition where the semen enters the bladder instead of moving out through the urethra causing oligospermia.
- Hormonal variations: Alterations in hormones produced by the hypothalamus, pituitary glands, and testicles may impair sperm production.
- Defects of tubules that carry the sperm: Blockage or damage in the tubes/ducts that transport the sperm can lead to low sperm count signs.
- Genetic Factors: Certain genes contribute to the causes of oligospermia. Inheritance of genes that cause oligospermia or the presence of chromosomal anomalies that lead to low sperm production can increase the probability of low sperm production.
- Environmental causes: Exposure to chemicals, harmful radiations like X-rays are known to impair the sperm count.
- High temperatures: Exposure to high heat and temperatures at the testicular region can affect the sperm numbers.
- Health and other lifestyle causes: Smoking, excessive alcohol, certain drugs, and medications are the other causes of oligospermia.
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5. Complications and Risk Factors
Certain risk factors are known to be associated with low sperm count signs. They are:
- Lifestyle habits such as smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol, and abusive use of drugs
- Psychological factors such as depression or stress
- Presence of infections of the reproductive system
- Exposure to chemicals, harmful radiations, and toxic substances
- Treatment of cancer – chemotherapy and radiation therapy
- Exposure of testicle region to high temperature or heat
- Injury or damage to the testicles
- Undescended testicles where the testicles fail to descend into the scrotal sacs.
How does oligospermia cause miscarriages? Oligospermia does not directly cause miscarriages, but fertilization of the ovum with sperm having improper shape, size, DNA, and motility can lead to miscarriage.
6. Oligospermia Treatment in Delhi
Diagnostic tests for oligospermia are sperm analysis, testicular biopsy, Ultrasound, hormone tests, genetic analysis, etc. These tests help to find the exact causes of oligospermia that can help devise an accurate treatment plan.
After proper diagnosis, the following options can be considered as a treatment for oligospermia.
- Surgery of the reproductive ducts: A varicocele can be corrected surgically or correction of an obstructed vas deferens can be done. Surgical repair of ducts can improve the sperm count and treat one of the major causes of oligospermia.
- Surgical sperm aspiration: In cases of severe oligospermia or condition where the delicate ducts are blocked or damaged, sperm aspiration techniques can be used to retrieve adequate sperm surgically directly from the testes or epididymis (TESA/PESA). One of the latest technologies used in treatment for oligospermia include microscopically handled sperm extraction or mTESE ( microdissection testicular exploration sperm extraction) where the sperms are extracted from the testicular tissue samples.
- Treating infections: Antibiotics are used to treat infections of the reproductive tract that can help heal infections and improve sperm production.
- Hormone treatments and medications. Hormonal medications and replacement therapies can help stabilize the hormones affecting the production of good quality and quantity sperms.
- Assisted reproductive technology (ART): ART treatment options can help obtain sperms through ejaculation, surgical aspiration, or donors . The sperm obtained are then inseminated into the woman’s reproductive tract using Intrauterine insemination (IUI). Otherwise are fused with the retrieved ovum in a lab via the IVF (In Vitro Fertilization, ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection)technique is one of the effective treatments for oligospermia that involves insertion of sperm into the egg. The embryo developed through IVF or ICSI is later transferred into the uterus of the mother.
For common questions like can severe oligospermia be cured or how to manage oligospermia, there are varied treatment options available to address this medical condition. Connect with specialists and andrologists at OMYA who would help you with accurate diagnosis to find the right cause and provide you the right oligospermia treatment.
Also Read: How to Read a sperm analysis report?
It is said that only one sperm is required to fertilize the ovum but it takes millions of sperm that can increase the chances of fertilization. Low sperm count signs can reduce the fertilization probabilities and lead to difficulty in having a child. However, the first line of treatment for oligospermia is found through assessing the symptoms of oligospermia at the best fertility centre. Once the Andrologists analyse the low sperm count signs, detailed tests confirm the exact causes of oligospermia, and the treatment process becomes easy. Technical advancements in treatments have enhanced the success rates as well as helped many overcome low sperm count signs.
Omya connects cutting-edge technology with experienced hands to give the best results. We, at OMYA IVF Centre In Delhi, offer a full suite of embryology and andrology fertility services in a convenient manner to treat all conditions of infertility in men and women. Connect with our specialists at OMYA for an entire module of assessment and treatment for oligospermia.