In general, men have poorer health habits, poorer quality of health and shorter life expectancy than women. This may be because they are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviour, and are at times less likely than women to adopt preventive health measures. But men’s health issues don’t affect only men - they have a significant impact on their family and friends, too.
The conditions we will talk about can influence everything from sexual and marital relations to quality and length of life. Unfortunately, a lot of these issues - particularly the ones having to do with sex or masculinity - are very hard for men to talk about.
Testosterone is the most important hormone for the normal growth and development of male sex and reproductive organs. it’s possible for the development of male characteristics such as body and facial hair, muscle growth and strength, and deep baritone of voice. Normal levels influence sexual function and production of sperm, and promote a healthy sex drive.
Men’s testosterone levels naturally decrease as they age. But if the levels drop below the normal range - whether because of age, injury to the testicles, pituitary gland or hypothalamus, or a genetic disorder - some uncomfortable and often distressing symptoms may develop, including:
1. Diminished interest in sex.
2. Regression of secondary sexual characteristics, such as facial hair and deepening of the voice
3. Impotence or Erectile Dysfunction.
As many as 50 million men are assumed to be suffering from testosterone deficiency, often associated with a condition called hypogonadism, but less than 1% receive treatment in India. Left unchecked for two long, this condition is linked with significant, long term health problems, such as loss of muscle mass and even osteoporosis.
Fortunately, though, testosterone deficiency is usually very treatable.
Treatment can take the form of testosterone replacement therapy, which helps provide and maintain normal levels of testosterone. Men should ask their doctors whether testosterone replacement therapy is appropriate for them.
Hypogonadism is covered in another article written by me.
The prostate is a walnut sized gland that manufactures fluid for semen. It’s located just in front of the rectum, an area of the body that men are often embarrassed to talk about.
Prostatitis is a significant health concern for men. While the cause of prostatitis are not well understood, it is believed that the condition might be caused by a bacterial infection or a inflammatory autoimmune response similar to that seen with allergies and asthma. Symptoms may include a discharge, discomfort, pain in the prostate or testicles, or frequent urination. A urologist should be consulted for proper treatment.
The prostate naturally enlarges as men age.
Early affects of this growth ( called BPH for benign prostatic hypertrophy) include painful urination or difficulty starting or stopping the stream of urine. Left untreated, BPH can lead to more serious problems, such as urinary tract infections, bladder and kidney damage, kidney stones or incontinence.
It is the one of the most common cancer in men. Every year, over 200,000 men are diagnosed with this disease, and approximately 30,000 die. But if caught early, through either a digital rectal examination (DRE) or a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test, this disease is often treatable.
In the early stages, prostate cancer causes no symptoms. However, as the disease develops, so do the red flags. Men should notify a doctor immediately if they notice any of the following
1. Hip or back pain.
2. Difficulty urinating.
3. Painful or burning urination.
4. Blood in the urine.
A man may consider a baseline prostate specific antigen after knowing and understanding the natural history of the disease, complications of treatment and life expectancy. The baseline test can be done at an age of 40 years, though, recommendations vary. Asian population at large is known to have less incidence of prostate cancer as compared to our western counterparts. (Who is fit for Prostate Cancer Screening, would be covered in different article)
Options for Cancer Prostate include surgical removal of Prostate, radiation, hormone therapy, immunotherapy and cryosurgery. Men with localised, low risk prostate cancer might choose active surveillance, closely monitoring the cancer to see if it progresses or becomes aggressive, to determine if treatment is needed. Options and possible side effects of treatment should be discussed with a urologist.
Prostate cancer - Misconceptions Part 1 has been covered in another article.
Cancer of the testicles is the most common cancer in the ages 15 to 35. Although it can’t be prevented, it has a high cure rate if detected early. Early detection is the key to success.
1. Lumps / enlargement of testis.
2. A feeling of pulling or unusual weight in the scrotum.
3. Pain / discomfort in the testis or scrotum
4. Dull ache in the lower abdomen
5. Enlargement or tenderness of the breasts..
The best way to spot testicular cancer is by doing a self examination. Unfortunately, too few boys and young men know that they should examine their testicles monthly, even fewer know how to do these exams, and too many feel uncomfortable touching themselves “down there”. So ask your loved one whether he knows how to do a testicular exam. If he doesn’t, encourage him to talk to his doctor about the proper way to do one. We will be also covering this topic in further articles.
Testicular Self Examination has been covered in another article.
ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION / IMPOTENCE
It is the inability of a man to get or to maintain an erection sufficient for his sexual needs or the needs of his partner. ED is incredibly common - most men have it briefly at some point in their lives. But for a many as 50 - 60 million men in India, ED is a chronic condition.
Although ED becomes more common with age, men of any age can suffer with it. Sadly, they generally refuse to discuss it with either their partner or their doctors. As a result, men feel embarrassed and women in their life often feel that the man in their life doesn’t find them attractive. So if you want to make love and your husband says he has a headache, pay attention; it might be something far more serious.
Although 70% of the time, ED is caused by an underlying health problem, most often diabetes (as many as half of all men with diabetes suffer from ED). ED may also be caused by kidney disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and drug or alcohol abuse or hypogonadism. The remaining 30% of the cases are cause by stress, anxiety, depression, or sometimes the medications used to treat these conditions.
In most cases whether ED is caused by a physical or physiological problem, it’s treatable, which means it does not have to be natural or inevitable part of growing older. Treatments include drug therapy, penile implants, vacuum devices that manually create an erection, injections, or other alternatives. Your loved one should talk to his doctor to determine the cause and the most appropriate treatment.
Erectile Dysfunction has been covered in detail in another article.