As men age, they may notice changes in their testicles and scrotum. The testicles, commonly known as “balls,” are part of the male reproductive system and are responsible for producing testosterone and sperm. The scrotum is the pouch of skin that contains the testicles. While testicular and scrotal changes are a normal part of aging, men should be aware of any concerning symptoms that may indicate a health problem. In this article, we will explore how a man’s balls typically change with age and when to see a doctor.
Do a man’s testicles change size with age?
Yes, it is common for a man’s testicles to gradually get smaller as he gets older. Studies show testicular volume peaks during adolescence and early adulthood. After age 30, testicular volume and size starts to slowly decline. One study found the average testicle size decreased from about 22 mL at age 30 to about 18 mL by age 60. The decrease in size is usually gradual, about 1% per year.
Several factors contribute to shrinking testicle size:
- Decreased testosterone – Testosterone helps stimulate testicle growth and function. As testosterone levels decline with age, testicles tend to get smaller.
- Lower sperm production – Testicles get smaller as sperm production decreases. Sperm production peaks in the teens and 20s, then steadily declines, especially after age 40.
- Loss of tissue/cells – Loss of testicular cells due to aging leads to tissue loss and shrinking size.
So in summary, a slight decrease in testicular volume and shrinking balls is common as men get older. However, a significant or sudden decrease in size may indicate a health problem.
Do a man’s balls sag more with age?
Yes, another common change is increased sagging or drooping of the scrotum that occurs with aging. The scrotum naturally loses elasticity and collagen over time, allowing the scrotal skin to become more wrinkled and loose with age. Other factors that contribute to sagging balls:
- Loss of muscular support – The dartos muscle in the scrotum helps provide structure and support. Weakening of this muscle can allow more sagging.
- Loss of testicular volume – As testicles shrink, there is more excess scrotal skin, increasing the droopy appearance.
- Prior conditions – Scrotal sagging can be worsened by prior inflammation, trauma, or surgery on the scrotum.
In many men, the scrotal skin lengthens and balls take on a lower, droopier position. However, in severe cases, excessive sagging is called scrotal ptosis. This can sometimes cause physical discomfort if the scrotum hangs too low. If sagging is accompanied by pain or irritation, see your doctor.
Do the testicles change position with age?
Generally, no. The testicles are housed within the scrotum and connected internally by the spermatic cord and blood vessels. These anatomical structures keep the testicles properly oriented within the scrotal sac.
While the scrotum itself may sag more with age, the testicles typically maintain their horizontal positioning. However, in rare cases of severe scrotal ptosis, the weight of the excess scrotal skin can pull the testicles into a more vertical orientation. More commonly, a retractile testicle can occur, where a testicle temporarily shifts in position due to tightening of muscles or tissues around the spermatic cord. If this occurs frequently or chronically, see a doctor.
Do erections change as a man ages?
Yes, most men experience some changes in their erections as they age. These changes may include:
– Slower onset – It may take longer to get an erection with age. Erections may not rise as quickly or be as firm at the start.
– Diminished rigidity – Maximum firmness and rigidity may decrease over time. Erections may not get as hard or last as long.
– Faster loss – Erections may go away more quickly with age. It also may take longer before another erection can occur.
– Smaller size – The erect penis itself often gets slightly smaller over time due to tissue changes.
– Difficulty maintaining – It can be harder to maintain an erection through the entirety of sexual activity. Loss of erection may occur more readily.
– Less frequent – Morning erections and spontaneous erections tend to decrease in frequency with age.
– Need more stimulation – More time, physical contact, or stimulation may be needed to attain full erection with aging.
These changes are largely attributed to declining testosterone levels and poorer blood circulation associated with aging. Certain medications, prostate issues, and health conditions like diabetes or obesity can also contribute to age-related erectile issues.
Do the testicles themselves change internally as a man ages?
There are a few key internal changes that occur in the testicles as men get older:
– Seminiferous tubule changes – These microscopic tubes produce sperm. They shrink and lose structural integrity.
– Lower sperm production – The seminiferous tubules make less sperm, which declines steadily after age 40. Sperm motility and quality also decrease.
– Leydig cell loss – Specialized cells in the testicles that produce testosterone decrease in number and functionality.
– Calcifications – Tiny calcium deposits accumulate in the seminiferous tubules. These small white flecks are common incidental findings.
– Germ cell loss – Germ cells are involved in sperm production. Declining germ cell function contributes to lower fertility.
– Smaller size – In addition to the external size decrease, the internal testicular tissue, compartments, and associated structures also shrink with age.
So in summary, the testicles undergo changes in sperm and hormone production that lead to both internal and external reductions in testicular size and tissue. However, the testicles overall maintain their same basic structural components.
Can the scrotum develop age-related skin changes?
Yes, the scrotal skin can undergo several age-related changes:
The scrotal skin naturally loses collagen and elastic fibers with age. This leads to wrinkling and thinning of the scrotal skin. The scrotum may take on a more deflated appearance.
Loss of pigment
The scrotum derives some of its coloring from melanin pigment. Loss of melanin with age can make the scrotal skin appear lighter or more mottled.
Sebaceous gland hyperplasia
These non-cancerous bumps on scrotal skin come from enlarged oil glands. They are common in older men.
These are benign reddish lesions associated with blood vessels dilating under the skin. They usually appear on the scrotum as small, scaly bumps.
Rough scaly patches on the scrotum may signal actinic keratoses or seborrheic keratoses, both of which are usually harmless.
If you notice any unusual scrotal lesions, rashes, bleeding or non-healing sores, contact your physician promptly. Catching potential cancers early is important.
Can diseases or disorders affect the aging scrotum and testicles?
There are some conditions more likely to crop up as a man ages that can affect the scrotum and testicles:
Fluid accumulation around the testicle leading to scrotal swelling. Common in older men. May require surgical drainage if very large.
A benign cyst that grows in the epididymis near the top of the testicle. Can grow large but is usually harmless.
Enlarged veins in the scrotum. Can cause local pain or exacerbate infertility issues.
Rare twisting of the spermatic cord that cuts off blood flow. Very painful and a medical emergency. More common in younger men.
Inflammation of the epididymis. May cause painful testicular swelling.
Inflammation of the testicle itself that can lead to swelling and pain. Often due to infections.
Inflammation of the nearby prostate gland. May spread to cause testicular pain and discomfort.
Again, prompt medical evaluation of any testicular pain, swelling, lumps or scrotal changes is important to identify potential underlying disorders.
When should a man see a doctor about changes to his scrotum or testicles?
Most scrotal and testicular changes are normal results of aging. However, men should consider seeing a doctor promptly if they experience:
– Significant pain, swelling or discomfort
– Sudden changes in testicle size or firmness
– Changes in scrotal skin such as rashes, lesions or ulcers
– Lumps, bumps or asymmetry between testicles
– Redness, heat or discharge from the scrotum
– Fever along with scrotal pain or swelling
– Blood in the semen or urine
– Trauma such as a blow to the genitals
– Erectile difficulties that persist over time
– Fertility concerns due to changes
It’s important to discuss any troublesome or worrying symptoms with your doctor, especially if the changes are substantial or don’t go away. While it may be nothing, getting checked out can detect any potential underlying medical issues needing treatment. Catching testicular cancers early is critical.
Can anything be done to prevent normal age-related changes to the scrotum and testicles?
While some changes are inevitable with aging, certain lifestyle measures may help minimize age-related alterations:
– Maintain a healthy weight to avoid obesity, which can exacerbate changes.
– Exercise regularly and remain physically active to promote blood flow.
– Avoid extended overheating of the genitals from hot tubs, saunas, heated seats, etc.
– Stop smoking tobacco products to maximize blood circulation.
– Follow safe sex practices to avoid infections that could cause inflammation/swelling.
– Avoid anabolic steroids or hormones that can impact testicular function.
– Get medical conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes well-controlled.
– Limit exposure to environmental toxins like pesticides or heavy metals.
– Take supplements judiciously. Some may help testicular health, but others may do more harm than good. Discuss with your doctor.
– Get regular checkups so any abnormal changes can be evaluated promptly.
While you can’t totally prevent aging, leading a healthy lifestyle and getting regular medical care may help you minimize changes as you get older. Report any unusual testicular symptoms or findings for evaluation. Catching issues early makes a big difference.
It’s common for a man’s testicles and scrotum to undergo changes as he ages, including shrinking size, increased sagging, and reduced sperm/hormone production. However, more severe or sudden changes could signal a potential disorder needing medical care. Being aware of normal aging changes vs. unusual signs is important, as is bringing up any concerns with your doctor. With a healthy lifestyle and proper screening, most men can rest assured that mild scrotal/testicular alterations over time are no cause for worry on their own. However, speaking up about any unusual symptoms can help identify emerging health issues needing attention.