In most cases of the male infertility the leading cause is a low sperm count, followed by low sperm motility, bad quality of the sperm and lack of semen. Many factors can lead to a low sperm count, and they are mostly environmental, life style factors and biological factors.
Most common causes of temporarily low sperm count
Emotional stress can be a significant factor and it has been proven to be able to reduce sperm count.
Impotence, sexual, psychological or emotional problems in the relationship may also affect the sperm count and sperm quality. These issues are treatable and problems with sperm which they cause are usually only temporary.
Fertility can be affected by the use of condoms and lubricants which contain spermicides. There are several brands of lubricants that are sperm-friendly and suitable for couples who are trying to conceive.
Environment and lifestyle causes
Exposure of the testicles to excessive heat can lower the sperm count, although it is usually temporary. This can occur in saunas, hot tubs but also during high grade fever. Exposure to heat in the work environment can permanently impair sperm count.
Substance abuse can significantly lower the sperm count, especially if the substance is cocaine or marijuana in great amounts. Marijuana can also reduce the sperm’s ability to swim, reach and penetrate the egg.
Smoking has negative effect on sperm count, sperm motility and on the life span in general. It can also cause genetic changes in children of smokers. Cigarette smoke lowers the libido and smokers are believed to have less sex than non smokers.
Bicycling has been linked to problems with infertility, because pressure and shocks to the perineum area can cause damage to the scrotum.
Overexposure to toxins, chemicals and infections may lower the sperm count directly through their effects on testicular function or through effects on hormonal system. Also, exposure to heavy metals like lead, cadmium and arsenic can affect the sperm count negatively. Their trace amounts in semen affect the function of an enzyme in the membrane of sperm heads.
Exposure to radiation, either accidental or for medical purposes (cancer treatment, x-ray imaging) also have negative effect on the sperm count. If the cells are exposed to great amounts of radiation they may take up to two years to recover and regain normal sperm production, or they may be permanently damaged.
Deficiency of some nutrients, especially vitamin C, folate, zinc and selenium may temporarily lower the sperm count. Normal sperm count is usually regained once the deficiency has been treated adequately.
Genetic factors can lead to a low sperm count, whether the genetic conditions are inherited or caused by environmental factors.
Patients with cystic fibrosis may have missing or obstructed tube which carries the sperm and consequently their sperm count may be low.
Some disorders, like Klinefelter syndrome and Kartagener syndrome, may affect the anatomy of organs necessary for production and transportation of sperm, causing a low sperm count in some patients.