Knowledge Update

OLIGOSPERMIA: The significant impact on male infertility

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Oligospermia is known as low sperm count, a problem with male fertility. And this usually occurs when the fluid (semen) ejaculated during an orgasmic experience has fewer sperm than normal. For fertility, a good sperm count is often required. The World Health Organization (WHO) describes a healthy sperm count of approximately 15 million or more sperm per milliliter (mL) of semen. Anything less than that is considered oligospermia. If there are fewer sperm than eggs, there is less chance that one of the sperm will successfully fertilize the partner's egg and result in pregnancy. Natural conception may be more challenging when the sperm count is low, although successful pregnancies are still possible. Nevertheless, many men with low sperm counts could still have children.

Low sperm count infertility can be challenging for couples. Millions of people who are of reproductive age experience infertility on a global scale, and it affects their families and communities. Estimates suggest that between 48 million couples and 186 million people are affected worldwide. Up to 2% of all males have poor sperm parameters, and 40–50% of all cases of infertility are considered to be caused by "male factor" infertility. Low sperm concentration, weak sperm motility, or aberrant morphology may very well be factors that contribute. Oligospermia rates are noticeably higher in less developed countries, and an increased percentage of infertility is caused by infectious disorders.

 However, there may or may not be further obvious symptoms. A bigger challenge, such as an inherited chromosomal disorder, hormone imbalance, enlarged testicular veins, or a disease that hinders sperm passage, maybe the root cause of the signs and symptoms in certain men. In addition to other signs of hormonal imbalance, low sperm count symptoms can include reduced sexual desire or difficulties keeping an erection (erectile dysfunction), swelling or a lump, testicular pain, and reduced sperm count. One should consult a doctor if, after a year of consistent unprotected sexual activity, they haven't been able to father a child or exhibit any of the following symptoms: insufficient sex desire or other issues with sexual arousal discomfort, soreness, a lump, or enlarged testicles, having undergone surgery for the groin, testicles, penis, or scrotum, as well as having a history of sexual or prostate-related issues.

The process of sperm formation depends on the healthy function of the testicles, as well as the hypothalamus and pituitary glands in the brain which produce hormones that promote sperm production. Sperm are formed in the testicles, then after passing through a series of delicate tubes, intersections with semen and release from the penis. There is a chance that any of these mechanisms could affect sperm production. Additionally, there can be issues with sperm morphology, motility, or function. Numerous illnesses and therapies can contribute to decreased sperm counts. Among them are antibodies that fight sperm, cancers, undescended testicles, hormonal abnormalities, deficiencies in sperm-transporting tubules, chromosomal abnormalities, Celiac disease, specific drugs, and post-operations.

Sperm production may be impacted by long-term exposure to certain environmental factors, including harmful gases, heavy metals, radiation or X-rays, and genital overheating. Low sperm count and other issues that can result in low sperm count have been connected to several risk factors. Drug and alcohol abuse, occupational tobacco use, weight issues, severe depression or stress, certain current or past infections, exposure to toxins, prior vasectomy, significant abdominal or pelvic surgery, a history of undescended testes, being born with a fertility disorder or having a blood relative with a fertility disorder are some of these risk factors. Surgery or other therapies for the underlying cause of low sperm count could have side effects. Avoid or drink alcohol in moderation to preserve fertility.

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Any medication that might have an impact on sperm count should be discussed with your doctor. Stay away from pesticides, heavy metals, and other chemicals, maintain a healthy weight, and manage your stress. Sperm production will be aided by a well-balanced diet rich in Zinc, vitamin C, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids. Cereals, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products can all help to increase sperm production. If the cause is unknown, maintaining healthy lifestyle habits like eating a balanced diet, abstaining from drugs and alcohol, and protecting yourself from hazardous substances found in the environment or at work is the best treatment for oligospermia. In vitro fertilization (IVF) and the anguish associated with infertility are costly and time-consuming. We discover that a variety of plants could also serve as natural or "home" therapeutics, and low-dose estrogen-testosterone combination therapy may enhance sperm count and motility in some men, especially those with severe oligospermia. However, additional well-designed studies are required to demonstrate the efficacy of all these treatments.

REFERENCE

Ferlin. A., Garolla, A., Ghezzi, M., Selice, R., Palego, P., Caretta, N., Di Mambro, A., Valente, U., De Rocco Ponce, M., Dipresa, S., Sartoni, L., Plebani, M., Foresta, C. (2021). Sperm Count and Hypogonadism as Markers of General Male Health. European urology focus. 7(1) 215-213.

Najari, B. B and Thirumavalavan, N. (2021). Should we use testicular sperm for intracytoplasmic sperm injection in all men with significant oligospermia? Fertility and sterility. 116(4):971-972.

Santoro, M., Aquila, S and Russo, G. (2022). Sperm performance in oligoasthenoteratozoospermia patients is induced by a nutraceutical mix, containing mainly Myo-inositol. System biology in reproductive medicine. 67(1):50-63.

 

Mr. ABDULSALAM Mustapha is a Lecturer II in the Department of Microbiology at Skyline University Nigeria. He has completed his MSc in Microbiology from the University of Ilorin, Nigeria, where he specialized in Industrial and Pharmaceutical Microbiology.

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