Oligospermia is the medical term for low sperm count. “Ligo” is the Greek term for little. Oligospermia refers to having less than 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen. Those with oligospermia have a reduced chance of fertilizing an egg and getting pregnant naturally.

What is oligospermia?

Oligospermia is a male fertility issue characterized by a low sperm count. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a normal sperm count is around 15 million sperm per milliliter (mL) of semen. There are different types of oligospermia, ranging from mild to severe; sperm count in mild oligospermia is typically between 10 and 15 million sperm per mL, while with severe oligospermia, sperm count falls between zero and five million sperm per mL. Moderate oligospermia is defined as a sperm count between five and 10 million sperm per mL. Oligospermia can have an adverse effect on fertility and reduces the chances of fertilizing the egg. 

Oligospermia in male fertility

A healthy sperm count is important for achieving pregnancy naturally. Oligospermia directly impacts male fertility and reduces the chances of conceiving. Patients with oligospermia can try to improve their fertility through lifestyle changes or medication, or can turn to assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures to have biological children. 

Causes of oligospermia

There are many possible causes of oligospermia, including lifestyle factors and underlying medical conditions. Varicoceles, for instance, can lead to oligospermia — swelling of the veins of the scrotum can result in an increase in scrotal temperature which impedes the production of sperm. Other causes of oligospermia include infections, such as sexually transmitted infections (STDs), hormone and ejaculation issues, and drug and alcohol abuse.

Treatment of oligospermia

The first step in treating oligospermia is diagnosing the root cause. Surgery can be done to correct a varicocele and redirect blood flow. Making healthier lifestyle choices can have a positive impact on sperm production. Finally, hormone treatment and medication can restore hormones back to regular levels, as well as prevent a drop in sperm count.

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