Men’s Health

What are the different options of penile implants?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Can you discuss penile implants? I haven't had success with other treatments for erectile dysfunction.

DEAR READER: Medications, injectable drugs and devices such as vacuum pumps can effectively help most men who cannot get or maintain an erection. In particular, the three different pills for erectile dysfunction (ED) are effective about 70 percent of the time. Have you talked with your doctor about increasing the dose of the medicines you have taken? And has your doctor done tests to determine the cause of your erectile dysfunction?

I’m a 52-year-old man — What causes a stinging sensation and dripping after I urinate?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I am a 52-year-old man. When I finish urinating, I drip much more then I used to. And I have a stinging sensation in my urethra. What could cause this?

DEAR READER: What you're experiencing is a very common complaint. As we age, several things happen. One is some enlargement of the prostate gland. This is called benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH. Your doctor can perform a digital rectal exam to assess the size and texture of your prostate gland.

Is acupuncture an effective treatment for erectile dysfunction?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Is acupuncture an effective treatment for erectile dysfunction?

DEAR READER: During an erection, arteries supplying blood widen, and veins leading blood away from the penis clamp down. As a result, more blood is inside the penis, causing it to swell and become firm. It sounds simple, but getting to an erection requires extraordinary orchestration of blood vessels, nerves, hormones and, of course, the psyche. Here is an illustration of this process:

I’m a man– Why are my breasts suddenly bigger?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a man. Why are my breasts suddenly getting bigger?

DEAR READER: Everything that happens to a woman's breasts can also happen to a man's breasts, including cancer. Enlargement of a man's breast is known as gynecomastia (guy-ni-co-MAST-ia). It is usually harmless and is often reversible. It's an oversimplification, but basically a breast is filled with breast glands and fat.

Why is it complicated to test testosterone levels?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've been having symptoms that may be caused by low testosterone. I figured it would be easy to test my testosterone levels, but my doctor says it's complicated. Why?

DEAR READER: Testosterone is one of the main male hormones. Blood levels of this hormone start to sag in early adulthood, and then creep lower. In some men, the levels become low enough to cause symptoms. The classic symptoms of low testosterone ("low T") are low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, poor muscle tone, poor concentration and memory, and low energy.

What can a doctor tell by a digital rectal exam?

DEAR DOCTOR K:I'm a healthy man in my 50s. I dread having a physical because of the digital rectal exam. What can the doctor even tell by doing this? Is it really necessary?

DEAR READER: The digital rectal exam isn't fun -- I speak as both a doctor and patient. But it is a risk-free way to check for abnormalities of the anus, rectum and prostate gland. Your rectum is the last few inches of your bowel, just above the anus. As you know, during the exam, your doctor inserts a gloved and lubricated finger into your rectum.

I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and now my doctor wants an MRI– what new information will the MRI provide?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I recently had a prostate biopsy and was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Now my doctor wants to do an MRI. Why? What new information will the MRI provide?

DEAR READER: I can understand why you're puzzled. A biopsy is the gold standard for diagnosing prostate cancer, so why do you need any other test?

Are calcium supplements unhealthy for men?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a man in my 60s. I've been taking a calcium supplement to protect my bones, but I recently read that men shouldn't take calcium supplements. Why not?

DEAR READER: I wish I could give you a clear answer. Several recent studies have raised a question about whether regular use of calcium supplements might be bad for the heart. The bottom line: It's too early to know if this risk is real.

Can regular bike riding cause ED in men?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm an avid biker. But could my biking lead to erectile dysfunction?

DEAR READER: Biking is an excellent form of exercise. But occasionally, if men who bicycle many hours each week are not careful, it can lead to temporary erectile dysfunction.

Do any health conditions affect men and women differently?

DEAR DOCTOR K: It's obvious that there are some health problems that affect only women, and others that affect only men. But for the health problems that affect both women and men, are there differences in symptoms, or in reactions to treatments?

DEAR READER: That's an interesting question. Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is yes. Heart disease is a good example.