Diseases & Conditions

Aging of the Male Reproductive System


Overview & Description

Changes in the male reproductive system occur slowly over time as a person ages. Unlike women, men do not experience a sudden change in fertility or in the functioning of their sex organs.

What is the information for this topic?

Several changes occur in the male reproductive system with age. These changes are considered a normal part of aging.

Here is what occurs as a man ages.

  • The ability to have repeated ejaculation is often decreased.
  • Ejaculation may become more difficult and occur less often.
  • The epididymis, the seminal vesicles, and the prostate gland lose some of their surface cells.
  • Getting and keeping a firm erection becomes more difficult.
  • The penis often gets slightly smaller.
  • The prostate gland becomes enlarged, a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia.
  • The sexual drive may decrease slightly.
  • Sperm production decreases, which may slightly decrease fertility.
  • The testes make the same or slightly less of the male hormone called testosterone.
  • The testicles decrease in size.
  • The tubes that drain the testes become less elastic.
  • Again, these are all considered normal with increasing age. Other conditions are more common in the older age group but are not normal. Erectile dysfunction is not considered normal at any age. It can be caused by:

  • circulation problems, such as atherosclerosis
  • depression or acute situational anxiety\ \generalized anxiety disorder\ \ panic disorder \ \ post-traumatic stress disorder \ \phobias\ \ obsessive compulsive disorders \ ',CAPTION,'Anxiety Disorders');" onmouseout="return nd();">anxiety
  • medicines, such as those used to treat high blood pressure
  • nerve damage, which may occur after prostate gland surgery or from diabetes
  • smoking
  • Many men have a gradual decrease in their sex drive with age. Sexual responses may also become slower and less intense. However, a total lack of interest in sex is often a sign of underlying problems. Sometimes these problems relate to social changes. Medical conditions such as depression and rarely even cancer are also possible causes.

    The normal changes in the prostate gland with age may cause problems. An enlarged prostate gland increases the risk of:

  • a backup of urine into the bladder and kidneys, which can sometimes cause kidney damage or failure
  • urinary tract infections, which may involve the bladder, prostate, or kidneys
  • Prostate cancer is very common as men get older. It is the most frequent cause of cancer in men. It is often treatable and very slow growing. Because it is so common, however, it is the second leading cause of cancer death in men. Cancer of the testicles is also possible, though more commonly seen in younger men.

    Though these issues may not be easy to talk about, they can affect health. Treatment is available for conditions such as an enlarged prostate or impotence. A healthcare provider should be consulted if there are any concerns.


    Attribution

    Author:James Broomfield, MD
    Date Written:
    Editor:Crist, Gayle P., MS, BA
    Edit Date:09/28/01
    Reviewer:Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed:09/25/01