A fertility and reproductive health expert has alerted that men should be more careful with some social habits they indulge in, as such are increasing their risk of coming down with low sperm count.
Speaking with PUNCH HealthWise on Thursday in an exclusive interview, Dr. Ibrahim Wada, president, Association for Fertility and Reproductive Health, warned that social habits, such as smoking, alcoholism, drug abuse and working in hot environments are possible factors leading to low sperm counts in men.
The AFRH president said that even though the roles played by these social habits are difficult to quantify, studies have shown that they negatively affect sperm production in men.
“We are talking about smoking, alcoholism, addiction or abuse of drugs and working in hot environments. These are the things that need to be talked about but the contributions and roles they play are uncertain and very difficult to quantify,” Wada said.
The reproductive expert also stated that infection is also a major factor for low sperm count in men.
He said, “If a man had an infection of the testes called mumps, which is a viral infection, when he was young, it may destroy a part of the testes. It means the man cannot produce enough sperms, thereby leading to low sperm count.
“In adult life, when a man becomes sexually active and contracts infections like gonorrhoea, chlamydia and other related sexually transmitted diseases, it may also destroy or affect parts of the testes.
“It may even block vas deferens, the tube where the sperms pass into the urethra during ejaculation. By and large, people have gone sterile because of chromosomal abnormalities. If you are a man and your chromosomes are not balanced, you are not capable of producing sperms like everyone else,” he warned.
He further disclosed that there are also people who are born with their testes held up in the abdominal walls.
“It is called ‘cryptorchidism’. It is not so common but it is a problem on its own. If detected early by the family or doctor, something can be done to bring back the testes to the scrotum in the first two years of the baby’s life. Otherwise, it may destroy the testes and result in the man having low or no sperm count at all.
Wada emphasised that the essence of raising such alarm was not to scare people but to give people a panoramic view of what might happen when there is a challenge with the testes.
“I am sure you must have also seen how some persons undergo sharp pain when they get kicked mistakenly in their testes in the game of football. If that pain or twisting is not relieved on time, parts of the testes may be affected or become dysfunctional.
“What this simply means is that you may be incapable of producing sperms in later life the way you should,” he noted,
According to an article published by Mayo Clinic, low sperm count means that the fluid (semen) that is ejaculated during an orgasm contains fewer sperm than normal.
A low sperm count can manifest as oligospermia, which is a complete absence of sperm. It could also be azoospermia, which is when the sperm count is lower or fewer than 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen.
Having a low sperm count decreases the odds of the sperm fertilizing an egg and resulting in pregnancy. Nonetheless, many men who have low sperm count are still able to father a child.
The main sign of low sperm count is the inability to fertilize an egg or produce a child.
There might be no other obvious signs or symptoms. In some men, an underlying problem, such as an inherited chromosomal abnormality, a hormonal imbalance, dilated testicular veins or a condition that blocks the passage of sperm may cause signs and symptoms.
Low sperm count symptoms might include: Problems with sexual function — for example, low sex drive or difficulty maintaining an erection (erectile dysfunction), pain, swelling or a lump in the testicle area and decreased facial or body hair or other signs of a chromosome or hormone abnormality
The production of sperm, Mayo Clinic explained, is a complex process and requires normal functioning of the testicles (testes) as well as the hypothalamus and pituitary glands — organs in the brain that produce hormones that trigger sperm production. Once sperm are produced in the testicles, delicate tubes transport them until they mix with semen and are ejaculated out of the penis. Problems with any of these systems can affect sperm production.
Also, there can be problems of abnormal sperm shape (morphology), movement (motility) or function.
However, often the cause of low sperm count isn’t identified.
Infertility caused by low sperm count can be stressful for couples and the solution to the condition is either surgery or treatments for the underlying cause of the low sperm count. A patient with low sperm count can also consider assisted reproductive techniques, such as in vitro fertilisation.