When it comes to the health of the men in your life, you’re probably aware of the conditions that are most likely to affect their well-being – like heart disease and prostate and lung cancers. But there are a number of other conditions that can affect men’s health that don’t get the attention they deserve. Here are four lesser known conditions that can affect men’s health:
Bladder Stones: Bladder stones are hard pieces of mineral buildup in the bladder. They develop when the bladder’s urine is heavily concentrated, causing the minerals in it to crystallize and harden. Part of the reason why bladder stones are an infrequently discussed men’s health topic is often because they don’t always cause symptoms. However, when symptoms do occur they can range in type and severity. Lower abdominal pain, frequent, painful or difficulty with urination, bloody or cloudy/dark-colored urine can all be signs of bladder stone development. Especially in men, symptoms can even include pain or discomfort in the penis. The biggest risk factor for bladder stone development is in people who have trouble with completely emptying the bladder during urination. Conditions that can contribute to this problem are an enlarged prostate, nerve damage, inflammation and kidney stones. When bladder stones are relatively small, they usually pass on their own. But for those that are particularly painful, a doctor may need to assist with their removal – either through a surgical approach or by a procedure called cystolithoapaxy. Proper treatment of bladder stones is important. When left untreated, they can result in chronic bladder dysfunction and frequent urinary tract infections.
Runner’s Hematuria – The term hematuria simply means ‘blood in the urine.’ While just about anyone can experience red blood cells in their urine at some point in life, the possibility is greater in those who frequently engage in strenuous exercise. Especially prone to hematuria are long-distance runners. Though it isn’t completely understood why strenuous exercise can cause blood in the urine, it may have to do with the body’s balance of fluids, the breakdown of blood cells or trauma to the bladder with mile upon mile of footfalls on pavement. Some medical providers suggest voiding the bladder about ½ hour before a run, so that there is at least some urine in the bladder during the run. The idea here is that some fluid in the bladder can help cushion the bladder walls from trauma during the run. But no matter the cause, blood in the urine is absolutely something that should be evaluated by a healthcare professional, especially to rule out more serious causes like kidney stones and cancer.
Varicocele – The term ‘varicocele’ means a gathering of enlarged or varicose veins in the scrotum. Similar to a varicose vein that can occur in the legs, a varicocele develops over time. However, when this condition occurs in the scrotum, it is commonly associated with decreased sperm quality and quantity – two things that instrumental for optimal male fertility. But it is important to understand that not every varicocele leads to fertility problems. Additionally, most men with varicoceles do not have symptoms and do not need treatment. There aren’t any scientifically proven risk factors associated with varicocele but if the condition is causing pain or is affecting a man’s ability to father a child, it can often be repaired surgically. The purpose of surgical varicocele repair is to seal off the affected vein, while redirecting blood flow into normal veins. Surgical repair of varicoceles is indicated in cases of testicular pain, testicular atrophy (when the testicle gets progressively smaller due to the varicocele) and infertility.
Testicular Cancer – Testicular cancer is a cancer that occurs in the genital organs of the body that produce male hormones and sperm. While it is still a rare cancer (about 8,400 cases diagnosed each year) to develop relative to prostate cancer (about 220,000 cases diagnosed each year), it is highly treatable and usually curable, especially in its earlier stages. Also important to note is that testicular cancer most typically affects younger men, with 33 as the average age at onset. Beyond age, other testicular cancer risk factors include being of Caucasian descent, HIV infection, an undescended testicle, family history of testicular cancer, cancer in the other testicle or previous testicular cancer. Early onset symptoms most frequently associated with testicular cancer can include a lump or swelling of one testicle, breast growth or tenderness and early puberty in boys. In its more advanced stages, testicular cancer can cause low back pain, stomach pain, headaches and shortness of breath or chest pain. Treating testicular cancer depends largely on its stage or how advanced it is but can include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, stem cell transplant or a combination of these treatments. The 5-year survival rate for localized testicular cancer is 99%.