What Causes Low Sperm Count?

Generally speaking, you are considered to have a lower sperm count when there are fewer than 15 million of sperm per milliliter of semen. With sperm count becoming low, you are likely to experience problems related to fertilization. It means you do not have enough sperm to increase your chances of fertilizing your partner's egg. While many men with a low sperm count can still have children, it still helps to know something about this condition.

What Causes Low Sperm Count?

Your body produces sperm through a complex process that involves the testicles, as well as the pituitary and hypothalamus glands. After the production of sperm, delicate tubes take your sperm out through the penis. Your sperm count may come down due to a problem with any of these systems. However, the cause of low sperm count is sometimes hard to identify.

1. Medical Causes

A number of health conditions and medical treatments can affect your sperm count in a negative way. Some of these include the following:


Some veins are responsible to drain the testicle. Sometimes abnormal testicular temperature regulation may cause these veins to swell, which can cause a significant reduction in your sperm count. This is a reversible condition.


You may develop an infection that affects the sperm health or sperm production. It sometimes causes scarring that in turn blocks the passage of sperm. This usually happens when you develop a sexually transmitted infection, and inflammation of the testicles or epididymis can also affect your sperm count in a negative way.

Ejaculation Problems

Your sperm count may come down when you have a condition called retrograde ejaculation in which semen enters your bladder instead of coming out of your penis. Spinal injuries, diabetes, and surgery of the prostate, bladder, or urethra are common causes of retrograde ejaculation. Certain medication such as alpha-blockers or the one taken for hypertension may also cause ejaculatory problems. It is still possible to retrieve sperm count in this case.

Defects of Tubules

Any problem with tubes that transport sperm can lower your sperm count. These tubes may be blocked due to surgery, trauma, prior infections, or abnormal development. Blockage can occur at different levels, including near the ejaculatory ducts, in the vas deferens, in the urethra, in the epididymis, and within the testicle.

Chromosome Defects

Certain inherited disorders, including Klinefelter's syndrome, Kallmann's syndrome, cystic fibrosis, and Kartagener's syndrome can lower your sperm count.

Celiac Disease

You develop this digestive disorder when your immune system reacts to gluten. The disorder can also lead to male infertility. Sticking to a gluten-free diet may help in this condition.


Long-term anabolic steroid use, testosterone replacement therapy, and cancer medications can cause infertility. Similarly, antibiotic medications, antifungal medications, and ulcer medications can also impair sperm production.

Other Medical Conditions

Cancerous or nonmalignant tumors, anti-sperm antibodies, undescended testicles, and hormonal imbalances may also affect your sperm count.

2. Environmental Causes

Being exposed to certain environmental elements can also cause low sperm count in many cases. For instance:

Industrial Chemicals

You may have a lower sperm count because of your exposure to toluene, benzenes, organic solvents, herbicides, painting materials, and pesticides.

Heavy Metal Exposure

You may end up dealing with infertility issues because of your exposure to lead or other heavy metals.


Exposure to X-rays or radiation can impair sperm quality and count. Sperm count may take years to become normal.

3. Lifestyle, Health and Other Causes

You may also have a lower sperm count because of many other causes. For instance:

Alcohol Use

Excessive drinking can lower your testosterone levels, which in turn will cause your sperm production to decrease.


Your sperm count may be lower than normal if you have occupations that involve prolonged sitting, such as welding and truck driving.

Emotional Stress

Chronic stress can affect your health in more ways than you might think. Stress about your fertility might affect your hormonal balance and lower your sperm count.

Excessive Heat

Overheating the testicles is what causes low sperm count in some cases. Many studies have found that frequent use of hot tubs or saunas might increase your risk of having a lower sperm count. Wearing tight clothing, sitting for extended hours, and working on a laptop may also affect sperm production.

What's more, your sperm count may come down a bit due to tobacco smoking and obesity. Sometimes, your sperm count is not actually low, but you get a lower count because your sperm sample was taken too soon after your last ejaculation. Sometimes, the sample might have been spilled while collection, which can also lead to a lower sperm count. 

Treatment for Low Sperm Count

In order to determine the best treatment, it is important to get a clear diagnosis of what causes low sperm count in the first place.

  • You might have to undergo surgery in case you are suffering from varicocele.
  • If your sperm count is low because you have an infection, you may have to take antibiotics to clear the infection to bring your sperm count back to normal.
  • You may consider hormone replacement treatments in case your low sperm count is due to hormonal imbalance.
  • Assisted reproductive technology (ART) treatments usually work great in case you are experiencing low sperm motility. 

You can also try these foods to increase sperm count.

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