HomeInfertilityWhat Causes Oligospermia or Low Sperm Count and How to Treat It

What Causes Oligospermia or Low Sperm Count and How to Treat It


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Studies on infertility suggest that up to 50% of the cases are influenced by male-factor infertility. Out of that, around 2% is due to suboptimal sperm parameters, oligospermia being one of the complications.

According to the World Health Organization, the average sperm count is 15 million sperm per milliliter of the semen volume. When you come to think of it, that sounds like a lot. However, a healthy volume and count of sperm in the semen is crucial for healthy fertilization and successful conception.

This article will discuss the basic Oligospermia meaning, what it entails with respect to fertility, the causes, and the treatment options.

What is Oligospermia?

Oligospermia is a male fertility complication that is characterized by reduced or low sperm count in the total semen volume.

As we said, the average sperm count is 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen volume. So, anything less than that is considered oligospermia or low sperm count.

The condition is further subdivided into three stages or types:

Mild oligospermia – 10 to 15 million sperm/mL.

Moderate oligospermia – 5 to 10 million sperm/mL.

Severe oligospermia – 0 and 5 million sperm/mL.

Not enough research conclusively suggests the exact reason behind the low sperm count in males. Also, oligospermia might go undetectable until someone is trying to have difficulty conceiving with their partner.

What Causes Oligospermia?

Oligospermia might result from several lifestyle choices, underlying reproductive health concerns, chronic ailments, and several others. Generally, doctors divide the cause into three distinct sections – medical causes, environmental causes, and lifestyle causes. There are a few associated risk factors too.

Let us walk you through some of the most important Oligospermia causes:

Medical Causes of Oligospermia

This involves the list of underlying physiological, reproductive or overall health complications that need medical intervention for treatment and recovery.

Varicocele – It results from any potent inflammation in the veins that drain the testicles. The condition often leads to unregular temperature in the testicles, leading to poor sperm count and quality. However, it is a reversible cause that can be treated to overcome complications related to male infertility.

Ejaculation issues – Retrograde ejaculation or lack of ejaculation is a leading contributor to male infertility. In retrograde ejaculation, the semen tips into the bladder instead of being ejaculated out of the penis. These reproductive concerns are treatable if diagnosed at the right time.

Underlying infection – Any active infection in the male reproductive tract can actively contribute to oligospermia. Most of these infections lead to blockages in the tracts, leading to swelling and complications like epididymitis or orchitis. If left untreated, it can permanently damage the testicular function and anatomy and even lead to infertility in men.

Tumors – The prevalence of tumors in the reproductive tract in men contributes to hormonal imbalance, blockages, and swelling, all of which eventually contribute to the incidence of oligospermia and poor sperm quality. Depending on the severity, your doctor might suggest surgery, radiation, or even chemotherapy if the tumors are cancerous.

Hormonal imbalance – The sperm production in males is influenced by the connection between the pituitary, hypothalamus, and the testicles. Any kind of obstruction in the feedback mechanism between these centers can lead to poor sperm quality and sperm count.

Chromosomal defects – Conditions like Klinefelter’s Syndrome, Kallmann’s syndrome, and Kartagener’s syndrome might contribute to abnormal or underdevelopment of the male reproductive system, leading to oligospermia.

Medicinal side effects – From cancer therapy drugs to long-term anabolic steroid use, several groups of medication often lead to the heightened risks of oligospermia in men.

Surgical complications – Although quite rare, a few different surgeries like inguinal hernia repairs, scrotal or testicular surgeries, prostate surgeries, abdominal surgeries, etc., might enhance the risks of oligospermia.

Environmental Causes of Oligospermia

The environmental causes of oligospermia involve the issues that stem from your surroundings, including:

Chemical exposure – Harmful chemicals from industrialization, including xylene, toluene, benzenes, organic solvents, etc., can affect a man’s sperm production and quality.

Prolonged radiation exposure – Studies have found that prolonged exposure to radiation affects the sperm’s quality and count.

Heavy metal exposure – This involves constant exposure to heavy metals like lead, arsenic, etc.

Testicular overheating – Indulging in a hot sauna, hot baths, and wearing extremely tight-fitting undergarments can lead to overheating testicles, which can cause oligospermia.

Lifestyle Causes of Oligospermia

Sometimes, the reasoning behind poor sperm count and sperm quality is due to the prolonged and poor lifestyle choices that we make. Let us explore those as well:

Drug or alcohol abuse – Unhealthy habits manifest in our bodies in multiple ways. If you are diagnosed with oligospermia, constant intake of anabolic steroids, or indulging in substance or alcohol abuse could be a potent contributing factor.

Smoking tobacco – Studies have found that smoking tobacco inadvertently reduces the quality of the sperm and affects the sperm count in men too.

Mental illness – Struggles like depression and emotional stress often interfere with the hormonal balance in the body, leading to oligospermia, poor sperm quality, and other complications related to male fertility.

Obesity – Excess body weight is associated with affected male fertility due to reduced sperm production, hormonal imbalance in the body, etc.

Besides these crucial factors, studies have found that post-surgical complications, IVF complications, and untreated mental illnesses can lead to oligospermia in men.

How is Oligospermia Treated?

As we mentioned before, oligospermia often goes undiagnosed due to a lack of potent symptoms in the beginning. Most men with mild to moderate oligospermia don’t always witness any drastically different symptoms pertaining to their reproductive health.

It is only when one experiences issues conceiving with their partner that one seeks medical help for the complications.

Before any further testing, the specialist will discuss about:

  • Sexual health
  • Libido
  • Any odd symptoms, etc. to get an overall outlook on the patient’s current sexual well-being.

Diagnosis typically involves a series of physical and lab-based testing to analyze the potential cause behind the issue.

This includes:

  • Semen analysis
  • Scrotal ultrasound
  • Post-ejaculation urinalysis
  • Genetic testing
  • Anti-sperm antibody test
  • Testicular biopsy
  • Sperm function tests
  • Transrectal ultrasound

The prescribed diagnostic tests generally depend on the complications that one is experiencing. So, always take note of every symptom you might be experiencing.

Following a diagnosis, some of the most effective Oligospermia treatment options include:

Surgical interventions – often suggested for treating varicocele to redirect the blood flow to another vein from the restricting vein.

Medications – involves prescriptions for antibiotics to treat any underlying infections or inflammations.

Lifestyle changes – some of the most effective lifestyle interventions include weight loss, eating a healthier diet, leading an active lifestyle, and quitting unhealthy habits to improve overall reproductive health.

Hormonal therapy – prescribed in patients with a hormonal imbalance to recover sperm count, sperm health, and overall sperm quality in men.

If the above medical interventions don’t show tangible results, your consulting doctor will refer you to a specialist for further treatments and reproduction assistance.

Do Home Remedies Improve Oligospermia?

Now that you know what is Oligospermia, its causes, and the treatment options, you must be thinking, “Are there natural ways to fix the issue?”

Most men opt for natural remedies to enhance the chances of conception with their partners. Some of the most potent options include:

Indulge in frequent sexual intercourse – It is a misconception that Oligospermia is synonymous with infertility. It is only marked by low sperm count. So, engaging in frequent sexual intercourse might lead to a successful conception without additional reproductive assistance.

Track ovulation – Being mindful of the timing enhance the chances of conception. So, if you are trying to get pregnant with your partner, ask them to time and track their ovulation to lead to successful fertilization. You can also discuss these with your doctor to get a better idea.

Avoid lubricants – If you are struggling with oligospermia, using excess lubricants during sexual intercourse further reduces the sperm’s chances of fertilizing the egg by reducing sperm motility. So, if you are trying to get pregnant with your partner, avoid using lubricants.

Complications related to male fertility can be complicated to understand on their own. We’d highly recommend discussing the issues with the doctor and assessing every treatment or assistive option as needed.

Also Read : https://pregajunction.com/blog/sperm-motility/


Is Oligospermia Curable?

Yes, with the right medical interventions, oligospermia can be reversed. However, the treatment depends on the causes and the symptoms one is experiencing.

How can I get pregnant with Oligospermia?

Oligospermia doesn’t mean infertility. Instead, men with oligospermia can enhance the chances of conception by having sex more frequently, tracking their partner’s ovulation, etc.

What are the symptoms of Oligospermia?

Some of the most common Oligospermia symptoms include sexual functioning issues, swelling or lump in the testicles, low facial hair growth, thick discharge, etc.


Oligospermia or low sperm count is often believed to be the end of the world. Yes, it might reduce the chances of pregnancy with one’s partner, but it doesn’t rule it out completely. Instead, with an early diagnosis and medical interventions, the condition is treatable and can be reversed. If you are experiencing any underlying complications, consult your primary care doctor or a specialist to get better answers.

Somapika Dutta (B.Sc Physiology, Honours)
Somapikar holds Bachelors Degree in Physiology from University of Culcutta. She has 6+ years of experience writing in different niches, including health, tech and lifestyle. An animal enthusiast and a raging foodie, experiencing life - one day at a time.


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