Everything You Need to Know About Sperm Disorders
Approximately 50% of all infertility cases stem at least partially from male factor infertility issues. When male factor infertility is present, semen analysis tests typically reveal evidence of some type of sperm disorder. These disorders are characterized by abnormalities in:
- Quantity of sperm in the ejaculate – if your sperm level is too low, it makes pregnancy more difficult because there are fewer chances of a sperm reaching an egg
- Motility, or movement – if a large percentage of your sperm is slower than normal, it will be harder for a sperm to swim its way to the fallopian tubes
- Morphology, or shape and size – if you have a high number of sperm with abnormal shapes and sizes, then it is less likely for conception to occur
Some of these factors are more likely to impact fertility than others. For example, abnormalities in quantity or motility are generally considered to be the main culprits behind semen-related infertility, as opposed to abnormalities in morphology.
Types of Sperm Disorders
A healthy semen sample is defined by a concentration of 15 million sperm per millimeter with a motility rate of 40%. For a sperm’s morphology to be considered normal, it is assessed according to the Kruger criteria, which establish that the head, tail, neck, and midpiece of the sperm are all in accordance with specific measurements and shapes.
There are several types of sperm disorders, including:
- Oligospermia, also known as low sperm count
- Azoospermia, which is when there is no sperm in the ejaculate
- Aspermia, a complete lack of semen
- Asthenospermia, a low quantity of moving sperm
- Teratospermia, a high number of sperm in the ejaculate
There are also instances in which sperm may appear to be normal, but there is some kind of hidden DNA fragmentation issue. If a sperm’s DNA is seriously compromised, it can interfere with an embryo’s development and possibly lead to miscarriage.
How Are Sperm Disorders Diagnosed?
Sperm disorders are identified through a procedure known as semen analysis. Semen is collected by the patient either through masturbation or by using a special condom during sex. The sample is then taken to the lab, ideally within an hour of collection, where it will be analyzed to determine volume, sperm count, liquefaction time, sperm shape, sperm motility, pH balance of sperm, white blood cell count, and sperm fructose level. There’s also the Sperm Chromatin Structure Assay (SCSA®) test, which analyzes the sperm for DNA fragmentation.
In many cases today, sperm disorders can be treated. Some of these treatment options include medications such as clomiphene citrate or through sperm retrieval techniques, such as testicular sperm extraction. If you are concerned about your fertility health and sperm, schedule a consultation with Male Fertility & Sexual Medicine Specialists today.