Written by Ben Bunting: BA(Hons), PGCert.
What are the symptoms of low sperm count and how do urologists treat this problem? What are the tests available? Does your doctor perform Testicular biopsy? What about Sperm DNA fragmentation? And, should you consider Artificial Insemination (AI) using your husband's sperm? We'll answer these questions and more. Also, find out how artificial insemination works and what to expect when you undergo it.
Causes of a low sperm count
Men with low sperm counts should consult a urologist for help. Low sperm counts can be caused by various factors, including hormonal imbalances, infertility, or a blocked sperm canal. A urologist can prescribe a treatment plan based on your specific situation and your symptoms. There are many medications that can cause a low sperm count, in turn these can affect your chances of conceiving.
The doctor may perform a semen analysis to determine the cause of your low sperm count. To do this, you must ejaculate into a sterile container. Some providers will perform the test a few days after the last ejaculation. You should also abstain from sex for two to five days before your appointment to give the doctor enough semen to analyze. In addition to performing the test, the doctor will review your previous medical history to rule out any problems that could be affecting your sperm quality or quantity. Infections, hormonal imbalances, and STDs can all negatively impact sperm production.
While many men experience low sperm counts, a low sperm count is not an emergency. Regular urologist visits can help keep sperm numbers normal and help fix underlying urologic conditions. Symptoms of a low sperm count when seeing a urologist may include infertility, difficulty conceiving, and mobility problems.
Other risk factors for a low sperm count include exposure to industrial chemicals or heavy metals, and even high doses of radiation. These factors are known to affect sperm production in the long run, but sauna use can temporarily impair sperm counts. There are many treatments for low sperm count, and the best way to know which one is right for you is to speak with your doctor and undergo an exam.
Varicoceles, or dilated veins in the testicles, are one of the most common causes of low sperm count in men. The treatment of varicoceles can improve semen quality and increase a man's chances of natural conception. The surgery may require a laparoscopy or a small inguinal or subinguinal incision.
When the semen analysis suggests that the sperm count in your testes is low, a Urologist may perform a testicular biopsy to determine the cause. This procedure is typically performed in the operating room or in a clinic under local anesthesia. A small sample of tissue from each testicle is removed and studied under a microscope. The results of the testicular biopsy may help determine the cause of your infertility or collect sperm for assisted reproduction.
A testicular biopsy can be performed in two ways. The first method uses an antiseptic to clean the area surrounding the testicle, while the other involves cutting the skin around the testicle. In either case, the testicle is numbed with a local anesthetic and the skin is stitched up after the sample is taken. A needle biopsy does not require an incision, but a small incision must be made to collect the tissue.
Abnormal Sperm Counts
An abnormal sperm count may be a sign of retrograde ejaculation, where semen flows backwards instead of into the urethra. A blood test may be required to detect genetic abnormalities in the Y chromosome, which may contribute to an extremely low sperm count. Testicular biopsy results may also indicate a problem with sperm transport.
While the procedure is generally performed under local or general anesthesia, some doctors choose to use a general anesthesia. In either case, the testicular biopsy will involve a small incision in the scrotum and the removal of a pea-sized piece of testicular tissue. The biopsy procedure can be uncomfortable but should not be painful. If your testicular biopsy shows a small mass, your doctor may remove the whole testicle in order to perform an accurate diagnosis. A biopsy can also reveal the presence of a spermatocele or orchitis.
The testicular biopsy is also used to identify the cause of infertility. Urologists will typically use the testicular biopsy for two main purposes: to harvest sperm for future ICSI treatments and to diagnose a condition known as obstructive azoospermia. It may also be used to identify a potential precursor of a testicular tumour or a CIS.
Sperm DNA fragmentation test
The sperm DNA fragmentation test is one of the most common tests that urologists use to check the quality of sperm. The test can be performed with two different methods. The first, called chromomycin A3, involves using sperm that have undergone denatured or chemical degradation. The second method, known as the COMET assay, involves breaking down the cell membrane surrounding the sperm. The fragmented DNA strands in the cell membrane form tails, and their lengths indicate the percentage of sperm that have suffered genetic damage.
In 2002, a study of 88 infertile men found that men with higher levels of DFI also had other abnormalities in their semen. Another study in 2009 showed a similar association between high levels of DFI and worse semen parameters. Interestingly, men who had abnormal results in all three categories of tests had significantly higher levels of DNA fragmentation. In the meantime, a patient with a high DFI was more likely to have low sperm motility.
The test for sperm DNA fragmentation is less common than the other tests used to measure sperm counts, because it is not completely understood. However, studies continue to clarify the correlation between sperm DNA fragmentation and the rate of births. Experts believe that sperm genetic integrity is one of the most important aspects of male fertility. This method has several benefits.
The results of an SDF test can inform fertility counseling and family planning. If abnormal SDF is detected, the male should seek an evaluation by a reproductive urologist to assess the cause of the high levels of SDF. This test may also help identify conditions associated with poor sperm DNA quality. However, the test does not provide definitive results. It is an essential component of the evaluation process of an infertile man.
One method used by urologists to check sperm count is the acrosome stimulation test. This test uses a double-detection method. The test evaluates whether or not the sperm are able to fuse with the egg. In some cases, low hormone levels can cause a low sperm count.
As you can see, there are various ways a urologist can test your sperm count, quality and health.
If you feel that you have an issue with your sperm health, you should speak to a qualified medical professional.
Also, be sure to eat a healthy diet, and exercise regularly whilst getting adequate amounts of sleep.