Men's Sexual Health
Even though all men are "supposed" to be sexual experts, let's face it: no one is born knowing everything. At some point you need information about the physical problems associated with sexual organs, sexual intercourse and birth control, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and many other issues.
To maintain sexual health you need complete and correct information so you can make informed decisions about sex. Also, you can learn to prevent many of the problems which can occur in male reproductive organs.
The information in this file provides an overview of male sexual health issues. Student Health Center clinicians can provide more detailed information. For more information, 706-721-3448.
The best way to keep physical problems from developing is to know yourself and be able to recognize changes or abnormalities. For sexual health maintenance, the American Cancer Society recommends regular testicular self examinations (TSE). Testicular cancer tumors are the most common tumors found in men ages 18-35. With early detection, spread of the disease can be prevented.
Testicular cancer symptoms include a slight enlargement of one testicle, dull ache in the lower abdomen and a sensation of heaviness in the scrotal area. Lumps or cysts are most commonly found on the front or side of the testicle. Studies have indicated a 90 percent cure rate for patients who are treated within three months of feeling a lump, but after three months the cure rate drops to 30 percent.
The best time for a testicular self exam is after a hot bath or shower when testicles descend and the scrotal skin relaxes. Examine each testicle with the fingers of both hands, placing index and middle fingers underneath and thumbs on top. Gently roll the testicle between the thumbs and fingers, feeling around for small lumps. If you find one, it may be harmless but should be checked out immediately.
Acute prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate gland. It is most often seen in men under 50. Acute prostatitis causes sudden onset of fever, chills, painful urination and pain in the testicles. Chronic prostatitis, more common in men over 50, comes on gradually but lasts longer, producing vague pain between the anus and scrotum. Symptoms may include low backache, painful ejaculation and dripping from the penis after urination.
Prostatitis also can be a complication from STDs or a result of stress. Acute prostatitis is treated with antibiotics. Increasing fluid intake (drinking several glasses of water a day) may help clear up the inflammation.
If you are sexually active, you may feel pressure to "have it all together" when it comes to sex. Male college students are increasingly concerned about their sexual performance and often seek help from health professionals about common problems such as impotence, premature ejaculation, and other anxiety-causing concerns.
Impotence is the inability to have an erection, or the loss of erection at or before penetration. Impotence may also refer to insufficient stiffness in the erect penis to allow for sexual activity. An erection cannot be willed, but occurs as a result of sexual excitement.
Most men experience situations where erection is not possible and accept it without becoming upset. For others it may be a stressful situation which seems to escalate. Stress increases the difficulty at the next sexual encounter, which in turn increases stress, particularly if you try to "force" an erection.
In many cases impotence is psychological, but other factors can contribute to the problem, such as alcohol or drug abuse, diabetes, or side effects from prescription drugs. Discussing the problem openly with a clinician may help alleviate your concerns.
Premature ejaculation usually refers to ejaculating before you want to during sexual intercourse. It can range from ejaculation before entering the vagina to very soon after entry. A stimulating sexual situation and a long interval since the last ejaculation may influence sexual control problems. Premature ejaculation is common in young men and greater control can develop with age. Use of a condom during sex can delay ejaculation for many men.
Men & Birth Control
Most women appreciate it when men take an active interest in birth control. This can range from offering to use condoms or offering to help pay for birth control, to bringing up and discussing birth control before you have sex. Talking about it beforehand can relieve some of the tension and make sex more enjoyable.
Many times men and women make assumptions about birth control. You may assume a woman is on the pill, and she may assume "he'll take care of it." Whether sex takes place in the context of a long-term or casual relationship, birth control and STD prevention should be discussed. Many types of birth control, such as condoms and vaginal spermicides (sponge and foam) are useful in preventing STDS.
Men & Sexually Transmitted Diseases
There are more than 25 different diseases that can be transmitted sexually. Many STDs are fairly easy to diagnose and treat. Some, like AIDS and herpes, have no cure and only the symptoms can be treated. AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) can be spread among heterosexuals as well as homosexuals.
Chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital warts and pubic lice are other familiar STDs on college campuses. Chlamydia is the most common type of STD in the U.S., and an estimated one in 10 students is believed to have it. Many STDS, including chlamydia, do not have visible symptoms. Genital warts, also called condyloma, can be microscopic and are easily spread. If left untreated, STDs can lead to infections of the reproductive and urinary systems, causing sterility and other permanent damage.
Obviously, the only sure method of avoiding STDs is sexual abstinence. However, if you choose to be sexually active you can make sex safer by following these simple suggestions. First, limit your sexual partners to one. Multiple partners place you at higher risk for infection. Second, use a condom.
The following conditions can be caused by bacteria or viruses that are not sexually transmitted. However, in college age men, they are frequently caused by an STD infection.
NGU (nongonococcal urethritis) is an inflammation of the urethra, the tube which carries urine through the penis. Several viral or bacterial agents can cause NGU, but it is often associated with chlamydia. Symptoms of NGU include painful and frequent urination, and thick discharge from the penis.
Epididymitis is an inflammation of the epididymis, a tube where sperm collect and mature, which sits above the testes. Pain in the testes can develop suddenly and is often associated with a fever and discharge from the penis.
See a Clinician...
If you notice anything unusual in your urinary genital area, such as itching, burning, sores, lumps, bumps or other kinds of irritation, see a clinician about it as soon as possible. Generally, the earlier problems are detected, the more quickly and easily they can be treated. Also, you may prevent more serious problems from occurring later.
Sources Partners in Health, Beverlie Conant Sloane. Charles E. Merrill Publishing Co., 1986. "Facts on Testicular Cancer," the American Cancer Society. "Sexual Dysfunction: An Aspect of Being Human," the American College Health Association.
Testicular cancer is the most common type of cancer in men ages 20-35. Beginning at age 15, you should examine your testicles monthly and continue the process through your 30s. A testicular self-examination (TSE) is important since testicular cancer can often be asymptomatic (there may be no symptoms to indicate a medical problem). However, there may be a dull pain in the lower abdomen and a feeling of heaviness and dragging. A monthly examination will allow you to become familiar with the size and feel of your testicles so any abnormality, such as a lump, can be brought to your doctor's attention.
When testicular cancer is found and treated early, it is highly curable.
How to do a TSE
The best time to do a TSE is after bathing or showering since the heat allows the scrotum to relax, which makes it easier to examine.
Place your index and middle fingers on the underside of your testicles and your thumbs on top. Gently roll each testicle between your fingers using both hands. It is normal for one testicle to be larger than the other. You should feel the epididymis on the top and back of each testicle. This is a cord-like structure that sperm travels through and should not be confused with an abnormality.
Be alert for a tiny lump, resembling a small pea, under the skin in front, or along the sides of your testicles. Report any lumps or swelling to your doctor as soon as possible.
For more information on breast and testicular self-exam, call the SHS Medical Clinic at 706-721-3448.