Male Sex Glands

We here at think an important part of keeping our bodies healthy is truly knowing about your body and understanding it---and this coudln't be more true than when it comes to our sexual anatomy!  So throughout this site you'll find various articles and blog posts that give an overview of different parts of both male and female sexual anatomy, the function(s) of those parts and related health risks that we think are important.

In this article we'd like to address the male sex glands.  There are actually a collection of glands in the male sexual anatomy that include the prostate and testicles.  Both of these glands are overviewed in other articles here on our site.  Right here we’ll be discussing the names, location, function, and possible health concerns of the final two, smaller, players in the male sexual glands network: the cowper's gland and the seminal vesicle.

The first of these glands is the bulbourethral gland; or, as it is more commonly known, the Cowper’s Gland.  The Cowper’s Gland, the smallest of the glands in a man’s sexual anatomy, is actually a pair of glands.  They are about the size of a pea and are located in the area beneath the prostate gland (which you may recall lies beneath the bladder between the rectal lining and the base of the penis).  The Cowper’s glands are directly attached to the back underside of the urethra (the tube that runs through and exits the penis) near the base of the penis.  They produce part of the fluid in semen.  More importantly, however, it is in the Cowper’s that pre-ejaculate fluid, or precum, is made.  This precum serves two functions.  The first is that it provides some lubrication to the urethra itself for semen and sperm to pass.  Additionally, because urine passes through the urethra, it is usually very acidic.   The precum produced in the Cowper’s is an alkaline that neutralizes this acid so sperm are not destroyed as they leave the body.

Significant problems with the Cowper’s gland are relatively rare but can occur.  It is possible for various sexually transmitted diseases, if they travel up the urethra into the body, to cause infections in the Cowper’s.  Some men are born with, or may develop during adolescence or young adulthood, lesions of the Cowper’s.  The primary symptoms of infections or other problems in the Cowper’s are genital or abdominal discomfort, pain during urination, or the presence of penile discharge.  Problems with the Cowper’s are rarely, if ever, serious---but because the symptoms are very similar to those that might be experienced with an STD or a other serious health problem (such as prostate concerns), a physician should be consulted for proper diagnosis and treatment.

The final gland is the seminal vesicle.  The seminal vesicles are a pair of glands located behind the bladder. They empty into the prostate gland along with the vas deferens (the tubes that that carry sperm from the testes) and, much like the prostate itself, lie against the rectal wall.  These vesicles, like the prostate and the Cowper’s, help to create semen…and in fact release a significant portion of the seminal fluid.  The fluid produced within the seminal vesicles is high in fructose and provides nourishment for sperm in fertile men (and is likely a large contributor to the flavor of semen, too).

Similar to the Cowper’s gland, serious complications of the seminal vesicles themselves are relatively rare. A small percentage of men may develop lesions, cysts, or abscesses on their seminal vesicles.  Additionally, other diseases can affect the vesicles (for instance, there are some documented cases of damage to the vesicles caused by tuberculosis).  Even though problems of the seminal vesicles themselves are rather rare, it is worth noting that because they empty into the prostate gland, the seminal vesicles can be affected when there are problems with the prostate…and, in fact, during a prostate removal procedure the seminal vesicles will usually be either removed or closed off (which is the reason that post-prostate removal men no longer produce semen).  Symptoms of seminal vesicle specific problems will be similar to those of the Cowper’s and should again be referred to a physician or specialist.