Men and women both experience changes in their reproductive systems as they age, but like all things gender-related, the change is different for men. Unlike women, who experience a fairly sudden change in fertility or the functioning of sexual organs, men experience changes more slowly over time.
Changes to the male reproductive system are a natural part of aging and can include:
- Slight reduction in the size of the penis.
- Decrease in the ability to ejaculate.
- Sexual drive may decrease slightly.
- Achieving and maintaining an erection may become difficult.
- Sperm production decreases.
- The size of the testicles decreases.
- Ejaculation may occur less frequently or become more difficult to attain.
- Seminal vesicles, the prostate gland and the epididymis lose some surface cells.
- The prostate gland becomes enlarged, a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia.
- The testes may produce reduced levels of testosterone.
- The epididymis (tubes that drain sperm from the testes) become less elastic.
While the conditions mentioned above are considered a normal part of the aging process, there are other conditions that are more common in older men, but they are not a normal part of aging.
For instance, erectile dysfunction (ED) is not considered normal at any age, and can be caused by:
- Circulation problems, such as atherosclerosis.
- Certain medications, including some prescribed to treat high blood pressure.
- Depression or anxiety.
- Nerve damage, sometimes resulting from prostate gland surgery or diabetes.
It’s not uncommon for men to experience a gradual decrease in sex drive with age, and sexual responses may also become less intense. Bur a complete lack of interest in sex is not considered normal, and is often a sign that there is an underlying problem. These problems can be related to social changes, medical conditions including depression, and although it’s rare, even cancer can be an underlying culprit.
Normal changes in the prostate gland that occur with age may also become problematic, as an enlarged prostate gland increases your risk of several conditions including:
- Urinary tract infections, which may affect the prostate, bladder or kidneys.
- The backup of urine into the bladder and kidneys, a condition that can lead to kidney damage or kidney failure.
Prostate cancer is common in men as they get older. In fact, prostate cancer is the most frequent cause of cancer in men. It is very slow growing and often treatable, but because it is so common, it is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men.
Testicular cancer may also occur in men as they age, although it is more commonly seen in younger men. Treatments for conditions such as enlarged prostate or impotence can lead doctors to discover testicular cancer if it is the underlying cause of your enlarged prostate or impotence. Always address your concerns directly with your physician.