Semen is a cloudy white or gray fluid, produced by male reproductive organs (seminal vesicles, prostate, testicles and epididymus). The volume of semen, produced in one ejaculation varies from 2-5 ml, which contains between 40 million and 600 million sperm. The sperm count depends from the volume of the ejaculate and the length of time since the last ejaculation. 30 minutes after ejaculation the semen which has a jelly-like consistency, becomes runny and clear.
Semen contains vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, free amino acids, fructose, enzymes, magnesium, nitrogen, potassium, citric acid, phosphorylcholine and prostaglandin.
At least 60% of the sperm should have a normal shape and motility.
Important factors that need to be checked with a sperm analysis are:
- semen volume
- total sperm number
- sperm shape
- sperm concentration
- sperm motility
- sperm vitality
Normally, semen volume varies from 2-5ml per ejaculate. A low volume of semen may result from a blockage in a seminal vesicle or ejaculatory duct, retrograde ejaculation, etc.
Thick or lumpy semen may be due to dehydration or low testosterone levels. Dehydration is a temporary condition, but if the thick or lumpy semen consists for more than two weeks see your doctor.
The normal sperm count varies from 20 to 150 million sperm per milliliter. A normal sperm has an oval head and a long tail. In shape abnormalities the sperm might have an abnormal head or tail.
Foul-smelling sperm is always a sign of infection. Seek medical help.
A red or brown semen may indicate blood in the semen, usually due to a burst blood vessel in the prostate. After a few days, the semen will have its normal color. If, this red or brown semen persists more than a few days, it is more likely to be caused by something more serious like a trauma, infection or even cancer. Seek medical help if the color of your semen is red or brown for more than a few days.
If semen analysis, shows abnormalities in any of the above mentioned areas, a second semen analysis is usually done after four to six weeks.
Factors that may affect the sperm health include:
- Alcohol - directly affects the sperm - producing cells, but also affects the process of sperm production by increasing the estrogen levels from the liver
- Drugs - opiates, steroids and cytotoxic drugs affect the sperm production,
- Smoking - people who smoke have more fertility problems, compared to people who do not smoke. Smoking affects the motility of the sperm and the sperm health in general,
- Environmental toxins - pesticides, organic mercury, radiation, etc.
- Diet - a diet rich in antioxidants helps the sperm producing process
- Tight trousers and underwear - reduce sperm production
- Hot tubs and saunas - the heat decreases the sperm production
- Time of the day - sperm counts are higher in the morning
- Prolonged abstinence - sexual intercourse or masturbation every 2-3 days helps maintaine an optimal sperm health and sperm count.
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