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Low Sperm Count: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Low Sperm Count

Low Sperm Count - (Image Credit: Shutterstock)

  • Low sperm count is a condition where a man's semen has less than 15 million sperm per deciliter.
  • Surgery around the testes, sexually transmitted diseases, drugs, alcohol, tumors, and exposure to chemicals may cause low sperm quality and count.
  • Consult a doctor if you can't make your partner conceive after many attempts for low sperm count treatment.
  • Tumors, swelling and pain around the testicles and reproductive system, low sexual drive, and erectile dysfunction are low sperm count signs and symptoms.
  • Avoid sexual and testosterone boosters, anabolic steroids, drugs, alcohol abuse, and sexually transmitted infections to prevent low sperm quality.


Many men fail to make their partners pregnant due to low sperm count. Specifically, low sperm count is when the ejaculate doesn’t contain adequate sperm to enable conception. The sperms may be too little, too weak, and may also be of low quality. As a result, they can’t penetrate the ovum to allow fertilization to occur. 

The sperm count for sufferers is below 15 million sperms per deciliter of semen ejaculated. Some men still sire even with a low sperm count. But, you must find out what causes low sperm count for you and seek treatment.

What Is A Low Sperm Count?

You have a low sperm count if your semen contains fewer than 15 million sperm per ML[1]. That means the amount of sperm found in each ejaculate contains less sperm than necessary. 

A low sperm count condition is called oligospermia. The good thing is that you can still make a woman conceive. However, there are high chances of the few sperms in the semen failing to fertilize an ovum and result in a pregnancy. 

Many men who fail to father a child may be suffering from a low sperm count and should consult a physician for the low sperm count treatment. Otherwise, fertility problems may continue, and you may not have children for a lifetime if your sperms continue to be so few in each ejaculate.

Possible Causes Of Low Sperm Count

So, what causes low sperm count? To produce an adequate amount of sperm, your testes must function normally. In addition, pituitary and hypothalamus glands[2] must produce the hormones required to kick off sperm production. If any of those body organs fail, one may get a low count in their semen or none at all. 

Furthermore, sperm must move from the testicles to mix with semen in the epididymis for ejaculation through an erect penis. A sperm needs normal shape, movement (motility), and function for fertilization without a hitch.

Here is a review of what causes low sperm count.

Causes low sperm count

1. Medical causes

These factors include the following:

  • Varicocele – If the veins that drain the testes swell, the swelling is called a varicocele. The swelling decreases sperm quality and causes infertility. But, the reasons for varicocele[3] leading to infertility are unknown. Fortunately, the condition is mostly reversible. So, those who suffer from it should seek medical advice to avoid infertility.
  • Ejaculation problems – Sometimes semen may enter the bladder instead of coming out from the penis, a condition called retrograde ejaculation. Experts think retrograde ejaculation is due to health risks like diabetes, injuries, hypertension drugs, and bladder, urethra, or prostate surgery.

  • Infections – Some sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)[4] may permanently damage the reproductive system and cause infertility and low sperm quality. STIs may scar, block, or permanently destroy the reproductive system.

    Still, some damage sperms or cause low sperm count. Though medication can cure most STDs, you should avoid them to prevent permanent infertility and many sexual problems.

  • Cancerous and nonmalignant tumors – Tumors may affect the reproductive system and other body organs and glands related to reproduction and fertility. E.g., if the pituitary, testes, brain, or others get affected, they may release hormones that affect or cause imbalances and a low count of sperms.

    Furthermore, methods used to treat cancer such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery affect sperm quality and fertility.

  • Previous surgeries – Those who undergo surgery within the reproductive and urinary tract areas may experience sexual and reproduction problems. These include vasectomy and surgery to the scrotum, testicles, bladder, undescended testes, prostate, rectum, and inguinal hernia repairs. 

    Sometimes, surgery may reverse some conditions. Or, you can retrieve sperms from the testes or epididymis.

2. Environmental causes

Some environmental aspects affect sperm count and production. They comprise:

  • Interaction with chemicals – People use or get exposed to various chemicals in their daily life or work. They may be industrial or agricultural chemicals. We ingest some with food or drinks or inhale some unconsciously. These chemicals include herbicides, insecticides, pesticides, xylene, toluene, paints, and solvents, to name a few.
  • Heavy metal exposure – Exposure to lead or other heavy metals also can cause infertility. Exposure to radiation from X-rays or other sources may harm sperm production as well.

  • Excess heat on the testes – The testicles are located outside the body to maintain the optimal temperature to remain healthy for sperm production. So, never expose the penis to extreme temperatures[5] to avoid damages. Don’t bathe in hot tubs, or place your hot laptop near the testes to prevent heat damage.
  • Radiation and x-rays – If you undergo an x-ray or radiation sessions frequently, this may destroy or impair the functions of the testes. Though this may be temporary, avoid it if you can since the damage may turn permanent. Else, it may take many years before reversing low sperm count in the semen.

Affect sperm count

3. Health, lifestyle, and other causes

When researching what causes low sperm count, we found the following:

  • Sitting for long periods and wearing very tight clothes – People who live a computer life or wear very tight garments risk raising the temperatures of the testes. This may reduce sperm production, albeit temporarily.

    Others who sit for long, resulting in a low sperm count include truck drivers, tailors, some office workers, shoemakers, and many others.

  • Drug and alcohol abuse – Those who take anabolic steroids for muscle mass, cocaine, marijuana, heroin, or drugs may damage the testicles and reduce sperm count.

    Additionally, smoking, vaping, and excess alcohol consumption may interfere with sperm production and sexual health. Unfortunately, for drug users, the damage may be permanent.

  • Being overweight or obese – Studies[6] show that obesity and excess weight may influence sperm production and fertility. Excess weight is related to many chronic diseases. E.g., diabetes, heart diseases, stroke, and erectile dysfunction interfere with sperm production and quality.
  • Emotional stress – Prolonged depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, and stress may affect the reproduction system and fertility. To make matters worse, worrying about infertility makes one more stressed, which worsens the situation more.

    So, reduce stress and get enough sleep to avoid sexual health problems and a low sperm count. Also, avoid unverified supplements that interfere with fertility hormones.

Signs And Symptoms You Have A Low Sperm Count

There are no direct low sperm count signs or symptoms. This is true until you try to sire a child and fail after many attempts. That’s when you start associating several health issues you may have experienced with infertility.

Here are some underlying low sperm count signs and symptoms.

Low sperm count signs

  • Low sex libido – People with low sexual libido and many sexual performance problems often repot low sperm quality. Low sexual drive may also occur to men with a history of prostate, testes, and sexual performance problems. So, having these conditions may be among the low sperm count signs.
  • Erectile dysfunction (ED) – Closely related to sexual libido, erectile dysfunction is even more worrying to those with infertility or trying to make a woman conceive. Having ED means one can’t get or maintain an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse.

    ED complicates the issue of sperm quality since even those with ejaculates rich in sperm may be unable to deposit them in a woman to conceive. Or, the sperm may lack motility to move beyond the cervix to penetrate the ovum.

  • Swelling, a lump, or pain in or around the testes – If you can’t make a woman pregnant after several years of trying, then it’s prudent to check if you ever had swelling or constant pain around the testes. People who had such experiences usually have low sperm quality.
  • Decreased body hair – If you notice facial and body hair is suddenly getting less, and you can’t father a child, then this may be a sign of hormonal imbalances. It may be among the main low sperm count signs you shouldn’t ignore. Seek advice from a physician.

When To Consult A Medical Doctor For Low Sperm Count?

If you can’t make a woman conceive after many attempts with a fertile female, then it’s time to see a medical doctor. Often, you will get low sperm count treatment. So, see a physician:

  • If you experience discomfort, pain, can’t ejaculate, or have a swelling around the testes that you may not explain.
  • When you have erectile dysfunction, low sex drive, premature ejaculation, and related sexual problems, and already for a long time.
  • If you underwent a scrotal, penile, testes, or groin surgery that may have affected your fertility.
  • When you can’t conceive a child after many unprotected sexual activities, or you have a history related to testicles, sexual, or prostatitis.

Management And Treatment Of Low Sperm Count

Treatment Of Low Sperm Count
Fortunately for people with a low sperm count, here are some remedies that may make conception possible if they seek early low sperm count treatment.

  • Surgery – A physician can perform surgery to correct varicocele issues and blockages to allow sperms to move freely. Also, surgery can reverse vasectomy if it’s the cause of infertility. But if you still produce sperms, you may do surgery to retrieve sperms from the testes or the epididymis. Eventually, you can use the sperms to fertilize an ovum through in-vitro fertilization (IVF) so that you get a child.

  • Take hormonal treatments and supplements with caution – Some people take energy, testosterone, sexual, and muscle enhancement supplements and boosters[7]. Unfortunately, the hormones in these treatments and anabolic steroids may interfere with sperm count and cause sexual problems. So, avoid them unless you know their possible side effects on your sperm count and quality.
  • Medications and counseling – Treat any urinary tract, bacterial infections, and any other diseases that may affect the reproductive system. It’s always devastating for a man to have sexual problems and infertility. So, counseling may also accompany the treatment of these infections for holistic healing since some sexual problems are more psychological.
  • Modify your lifestyle – You can change your diet, sexual habits, and general lifestyle habits that affect sperm count. E.g., have sex during a woman’s fertile (ovulation) period to enhance chances of pregnancy. You can increase the frequency of sex three days near and after the mid-cycle of your partner. Besides, avoid lubricants that may interfere with the movement and quality of the sperm as you ejaculate. Eat sexual and fertility-boosting foods. Exercise and avoid overheating the testes or sitting for too long.

How To Prevent Getting A Low Sperm Count?

Do you want to prevent having a low sperm count and maintain better quality sperm? If yes, then do the following:

  • Stop smoking and drug use
  • Reduce or avoid alcohol abuse
  • Take medications recommended by a medical doctor
  • Avoid or reduce interaction with harmful chemicals
  • Lose excess weight


Men with infertility and sexual-related problems live a nightmare life of stress, low esteem, and ridicule. They should establish what causes low sperm count in them to know if it’s due to hormonal imbalances, drugs, alcohol, surgery around the testes, or sexually transmitted infections. 

Additionally, they must look for low sperm count signs like tumors, swelling, and pain around the testes. They can make lifestyle changes like avoiding overheating the testes, overexercising, avoiding drugs, smoking, and reducing or avoiding alcohol.

The best thing to do is play sex more frequently 3 to 5 days before and after their partner’s ovulation period to boost chances of conception. Whatever the cause, they must consult a physician to get the right low sperm count treatment.

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