The system in charge of hormones, sperm and all reproductive elements in the male body is the male reproductive system. There are important elements of the male reproductive system located both internally and externally, and they specialize in very specific functions.
What are these elements, their functions and their possible changes with age? Here are all the basics you need to know about the male reproductive system.
The male reproductive system has a few different functions:
- Sperm creation: The male reproductive system is in charge of creating and maintaining male reproductive cells, or sperm, and their accompanying protective fluid (semen).
- Sperm discharge: During intercourse, it’s the reproductive system’s responsibility to discharge semen into the female reproductive tract, beginning the process of conception.
- Hormone production: The male reproductive system is also in charge of producing and secreting male sex hormones.
These hormones are the basis for the reproductive system. They stimulate or regulate cell and organ activity through three primary hormones:
- 1. Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
- 2. Luteinizing hormone (LH)
- 3. Testosterone.
FSH deals with sperm production, while LH stimulates testosterone production, which continues the sperm production process. Testosterone is also a vital hormone for many male characteristics, including bone and muscle mass, strength, sex drive and body fat distribution.
The male reproductive system is made up of several structures, some external and some internal. External structures and their functions include:
- Penis: The penis has three parts: the root (attached to the abdomen), the body and the glans, which is the cone-shaped tip. The glans is covered with a loose layer of skin called foreskin, which some people have removed during a procedure called circumcision. At the tip of the penis sits the opening of the urethra, the tube responsible for sending urine and sperm out of the body. When a man becomes sexually aroused, chambers within the penis fill with blood to make it erect. Reproductive cells (semen) are ejaculated through the penis during intercourse.
- Scrotum: A loose sac of skin that hangs below the penis, containing the testicles, nerves and blood vessels. The scrotum maintains temperature for the testicles, and allows them to move closer to or further away from the body for warmth when needed.
- Testicles: Also called testes, these are oval organs inside the scrotum. Most men have two testes, and they’re responsible for making testosterone and generating sperm.
- Epididymis: A long, coiled tube on the backside of each testicle. The epididymis carries and stores sperm cells, and also helps bring sperm to maturity so they’re capable of fertilizing an egg.
- Vas deferens: A long tube that connects the epididymis to the pelvic cavity, with the job of transporting mature sperm to the urethra for ejaculation.
- Ejaculatory ducts: Ducts that connect the vas deferens and the seminal vesicles, and empty into the urethra.
- Urethra: The tube that carries urine and sperm to the penis to be expelled from the body. When the penis is erect during periods of sexual arousal, urine is blocked from leaving the urethra.
- Seminal vesicles: These are pouches that produce energy sources for sperm and help their ability to move during ejaculation.
- Prostate gland: A gland that contributes fluid for ejaculation and helps nourish the sperm.
- Bulbourethral glands: Also called Cowper’s glands, these are small structures on each side of the urethra that produce a clear fluid. This fluid helps lubricate the urethra and limit acidity due to urine left in the urethra during intercourse.
Changes With Age
Men do not go through menopause like women do. In fact, the testes are able to produce hormones well into old age. However, some changes to testicle functions can take place after ages 45 or 50, and especially after 70. Some men benefit from hormone therapy, though this can contribute to the worsening of prostate cancer or atherosclerosis. Men should receive tests before hormone therapy and may benefit from regular prostate exams when they reach these ages.
To learn more about the male reproductive system, or to discuss any questions you may have, speak to your doctor.
Our staff offers a variety of services, including in-office PSA testing, a screening for prostate cancer. We work with you and your primary care physician to develop an individualized care plan for you based on the latest technology and research.
“The Male Reproductive System.” WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/guide/male-reproductive-system#1
“The Male Reproductive System.” The Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/the-male-reproductive-system