We all know that as time marches on, aging occurs. We can see the outwardly visible changes such as wrinkles, graying hair, or maybe middle-age spread. Inwardly, changes are also occurring but with little to no visible notice.
One hidden interior part of our body that experiences significant changes with aging is both the male and female reproductive systems. Women are all too familiar with the major changes that occur in the female reproductive system as they age-related to menopause. Men may not have as quite dramatic of changes as women do but there are changes that transpire affecting different aspects of their reproductive system.
A man’s change in the male reproductive system is a more gradual process referred to as andropause. This is a condition associated with the reduction in the male hormone testosterone with the development of symptoms. Here are some ways the onset of andropause can affect a man and his reproductive system – both visibly and hidden:
The primary change associated with aging is in the testes. One change a man may notice is that the mass of his testicular tissue has decreased. Another change is related to the possible reduction in testosterone levels. When this happens, a man can have problems with achieving an erection known as erectile dysfunction. It usually comes on gradually but once a man notices this change, he should discuss this with his doctor.
Men, unlike women, can still father a child into old age but there are changes going on that may slow down the rate of sperm cell production. One change is in the vas deferens, the tube in which sperm is stored and which carries the sperm out of the scrotal sac. They can become less elastic with age, a process called sclerosis. Other areas connected with fertility in the male reproductive system are the epididymis, seminal vesicles, and prostate gland. Each of these can lose some of their surface cells with age but they will continue to produce the fluid that helps carry sperm.
The volume of fluid ejaculated usually remains the same but there are fewer living sperm in the fluid.
The older a man becomes, the greater the likelihood of him developing urinary changes. In fact, one of the most common is enlargement of the prostate gland. This condition is called benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) and it is often said that BPH is so common that if a man lives long enough he will develop this. Most men over the age of 40 will have some enlargement of the prostate with more than 90% of men over the age of 80 have BPH.
The symptoms of BPH include:
- Dribbling at the end of urinating
- Inability to urinate
- Incomplete emptying of the bladder
- Needing to urinate 2 or more times during the night
- Pain with urination or bloody urine
- Slowed or delayed start of the urinary stream
- Straining to urinate
- Strong or sudden urge to urinate
- Weak urine stream
Prostate cancer is common in men as they get older. In fact, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in men, other than skin cancer, and is the second leading cause of cancer death in men, other than lung cancer. While prostate cancer is generally slow-growing and often treatable, it can metastasize and spread. All men should have a baseline prostate specific antigen blood test (PSA test) beginning at age 40.
Possible reduced sex drive
Not all men experience with age but some men may have a lowered libido. This often can be attributed to testosterone level reduction it could also be related to psychological or social changes due to aging, erectile dysfunction, illness, chronic health conditions, or medications.
Seeking treatment for changes with age
All of the above changes a man may notice or experience should be brought up and discussed with his doctor. Most of them can be treated to make them more manageable in order to have as little change as possible.