What is oligoasthenoteratozoospermia?

  • Oligoasthenoteratozoospermia, or OAT, is a condition that includes oligozoospermia (low number of sperm), asthenozoospermia (poor sperm movement), and teratozoospermia (abnormal sperm shape). It is the most common cause of male subfertility. Subfertility is a condition where a man has been unable to get a woman pregnant after one year of unprotected regular sex. This means not using birth control methods, such as birth control pills, diaphragms, condoms, or the rhythm method.

  • The male reproductive system includes the testicles, prostate, penis, scrotum, vas deferens, epididymis, and seminal ducts. Each testicle inside the scrotum produces sperm. After ejaculation (process of ejecting semen from the penis) inside the vagina, the sperm looks for the woman's egg. The sperm's tail moves with whip-like movements back and forth towards the egg. The sperm has to reach the uterus and the fallopian tube in order to fertilize a woman's egg. When this occurs, pregnancy happens and a new person will be created. Problems with the movement, shape, or number of sperm may affect male fertility. With treatment, such as medicine and sperm extraction, your infertility may be resolved and your partner may conceive.

What causes oligoasthenoteratozoospermia?

Most of the causes of OAT are still not known. The following are possible causes:

  • Drugs: Certain drugs, such as steroids and drugs to treat inflammation, high blood pressure, cancer, or depression may affect male fertility.

  • Genetic: You may have been born with genes that may cause infertility. A gene is a piece of DNA that tells your body what to do or what to make. Genes may affect sperm production, movement, and transport.

  • Hormones: Disorders in the testes may produce abnormal levels of hormones that may affect the production of sperm.

  • Immunologic: An immune system problem may cause antibodies to be produced that may attack your sperm. The immune system is your body's defense system against infections and diseases.

  • Infections: Chronic (long-term) infections of the male reproductive system, particularly in the prostate, may affect male fertility.

  • Lifestyle: Smoking, drinking alcohol, and using illegal drugs may cause problems with sperm production.

  • Varicocele: A varicocele is a condition where the veins (blood vessels) in the scrotum are enlarged and dilated (widened). Ask your caregiver for information about varicocele.

What are the signs and symptoms of oligoasthenoteratozoospermia?

You may have any of the following:

  • Inability to get your partner pregnant.

  • Increased body fat, body hair, and breast tissue.

  • Presence of a mass or swelling on the scrotum that feels like a bag of worms (varicocele).

  • Whitish to yellowish discharge from the penis.

  • Stress or emotional pressure from not being able to conceive a child.

  • Veins that are enlarged, twisted, and may be seen in the scrotum.

How is oligoasthenoteratozoospermia diagnosed?

Your caregiver will take a complete medical, reproductive, and sexual health history from you. He may need to know how long you have been trying to have a baby. The timing and frequency of your sexual activities, and problems with sexual urges and functions are also important. You will also be asked about your lifestyle, including alcohol intake and smoking, medications taken, and past diseases. You may need any of the following:

  • Physical examination: Your caregiver will look for signs of any imbalance in your hormones, such as increased body fat, body hair, and breast tissue. The size and shape of your testes will also be examined.

  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.

  • Genetic screening: Genetic testing may be done to look for abnormal genes. Abnormal genes may cause you to produce a low number of sperm.

  • Semen analysis: A semen analysis is a test to check a man's fertility. A semen sample will be taken. Semen is the thick, white, sperm-containing fluid released during ejaculation (process of ejecting semen from the penis). An increased number of white blood cells in the semen may cause problems with the sperm's movement and function. You may need to talk with your caregiver about the method of sample collection.

  • Sperm analysis: The movement of sperm and how it moves through mucus may be tested. A computer-aided sperm analysis to measure sperm numbers may also be done.

  • Spermatic venography: This test will examine and show the position of the veins in the scrotum. During this test, your caregiver will put dye into your body and take x-rays to look for the varicocele. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to shellfish (lobster, crab, or shrimp), as you may also be allergic to this dye.

  • Ultrasonography: A scrotal ultrasound uses sound waves to find lumps and other changes in your testicles and scrotum, such as a varicocele.

How is oligoasthenoteratozoospermia treated?

The treatment will depend on the cause of your OAT. You may have any of the following:

  • Medicines: Antibiotics may be given to treat an infection of the reproductive system. Hormones may be used to treat a hormonal imbalance. Steroids may be used to treat infertility due to an immune system problem. Antioxidants may be suggested by your caregiver to decrease damage to sperm caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS may affect normal sperm function. Antioxidants may include vitamin E, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and glutathione.

  • Percutaneous embolization: This procedure may be used to treat a varicocele. An obstruction (blockage) is made in the enlarged veins. This stops the flow of blood and treats a varicocele.

  • Sperm extraction: Sperm may be extracted (removed) from the testicles or epididymis. The sperm that is taken out may be saved or used to fertilize a woman's egg.

  • Surgery: Surgery may need to be done, such as removing a varicocele. Ask your caregiver for more information if you need surgery.

Where can I find more information?

Having oligoasthenoteratozoospermia may be hard for you. You and those close to you may feel angry, depressed, or frightened. These are normal feelings. Talk to your caregivers, family, or friends about your feelings. Contact the following for more information:

  • American Society for Reproductive Medicine
    1209 Montgomery Highway
    Birmingham , AL 35216-2809
    Phone: 1- 205 - 978-5000
    Web Address: http://www.asrm.org

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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