Advancing Age And Male Fertility
Aging is an inevitable physiological process that may cause a lot of serious physical as well as hormonal changes in our body. Needless to say, that these changes may impact our overall health as well. With advancing age, the male reproductive system also gets affected and men experience certain changes such as, change in the production of sperms, atrophy of testicular tissues, and onset of sexual or erectile dysfunction. However, unlike women these reproductive changes are not spontaneous and occur more gradually with the passage of time. These age-related reproductive changes in men are also referred to as andropause.
How Physiological Aging Impacts Male Reproductive System?
Here is what happens with advancing age:
- Testicular tissues: Atrophy of testicular tissues and overall shrinkage of your reproductive tissues is one of the initial changes caused by aging. This mass reduction may or may not affect testosterone production by testicular tissues and even if testosterone is affected, this reduction in sex hormone stays slow. Some men might also face erectile dysfunction.
- Urinary functions: Nearly 50% men are affected by benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), a condition in which scarred or fibrotic tissues replaces the normal prostate tissues; resulting in enlargement of prostate gland. BPH may lead to urinary and ejaculation problems.
- Fertility: Men does not become infertile all of a sudden but things in the bedroom may slows down a bit. For instance, testes won’t stop producing the sperms altogether but the rate of production may slow down. Prostate gland, seminal vesicles, and epididymis may lose some cells from the surface but the production of sperm carrying fluid will not be compromised. However, the tubes responsible for carrying sperms may lose their elasticity, due to a condition called sclerosis.
What Are The Implications Of These Changes?
Aging does not really affect the ability to father a child. A man can reproduce even without a fully functional prostate gland! The number of living sperms may get reduced but the volume of ejaculate remains largely unaffected. An aged man may have lesser desire to engage in sex but it is not solely due to aging! In fact, some aged men may have the same zest as that of a young man!Low libido can be due to low T levels, chronic illness, medications or due to psychosocial changes. Aging alone does not limit men to have pleasurable sex.
One of the most common issue that is reported by aging men is erectile dysfunction! However, ED is more likely due to other health problems rather than just aging. Disease conditions such as diabetes or use of anti-hypertensive medications may result into difficulty in achieving or maintaining stronger erections throughout the climax. Erectile dysfunction is treatable if caused due to certain medications or any disorder. As mentioned earlier, BPH may cause urinary problems. An enlarged prostate can block urethra, the tube that carries the urine into the bladder. This blockage may result into urinary retentions or urinary tract infections.
- Another complication that may arise due to incomplete drainage of urine is vesicoureteral reflux in which the urine flows back towards the kidney and if not treated, may lead to kidney failure.
- Besides these, infection or inflammation of prostate gland (prostatitis) is another common issue.
- Prostate and bladder cancers are the most common death causing cancers in aging men. Testicular cancer is another one but it is more common in younger men.
Urinary and sexual problems due to diabetes, hypertension or other health issues can be managed by treating the underlying conditions. But, testicular atrophy or prostate enlargement are not escapable. Change in sexual desires or responses are mainly due to factors other than aging. Men who are sexually active during middle age are more likely to continue to having pleasurable sex even at an elderly age.
- Ozkosem, B., Feinstein, S. I., Fisher, A. B., & O’Flaherty, C. (2015). Advancing age increases sperm chromatin damage and impairs fertility in peroxiredoxin 6 null mice. Redox biology, 5, 15-23.
- Belloc, S., Hazout, A., Zini, A., Merviel, P., Cabry, R., Chahine, H., … & Benkhalifa, M. (2014). How to overcome male infertility after 40: Influence of paternal age on fertility. Maturitas, 78(1), 22-29.
- Zitzmann, M. (2013). Effects of age on male fertility. Best Practice & Research Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 27(4), 617-628.