The Prostate

What Are Seminal Vesicles?

Semen plays a critical role in reproduction. Semen contains sperm, which are the cells that enter eggs in the female body in order to reproduce – leading to pregnancy.

There are several components in the pelvic region of the male body that assists in the production of semen. Semen does not only consist of sperm cells but also prostate fluids and other substances.

The seminal vesicle is one component that assists in the production of the fluids that combine with sperm to make semen. The pelvic area of the male body is where the seminal vesicle is found.

This post takes a closer look at what seminal vesicles are, what function they serve, and more.

What Are Seminal Vesicles?

Seminal vesicles refer to glands that form part of the reproductive system in men. These glands are sometimes also called seminal glands. In some cases, they are referred to as vesicular glands. These glands primarily produce seminal fluids.

In fact, most of the content that is found in semen will be produced here before being expelled from the male penis. The fluids produced by the seminal vesicles account for an estimated 70% of all content found in semen1.

Seminal vesicles thus play a significant role in semen production. For this reason, the male reproductive system also depends on the seminal vesicles. Without the function of these glands, infertility would develop in a male patient.

seminal-vesicles
These glands primarily produce seminal fluids.

Anatomy And Function Of Seminal Vesicles

Men need to understand the anatomy of the seminal vesicles. This can provide more insight into the parts of the reproductive system affected when certain symptoms appear. It also gives a man a better idea of how semen production works.

The seminal glands are situated between a man’s rectum and their bladder fundus. The rectoprostatic fascia, along with the rectovesical pouch, ensures the seminal vesicles are effectively separated from the rectum itself.

The seminal vesicle has a strong anatomical relation with another part of the reproductive system, known as the vas deferens.

The vas deferens helps to maintain a connection between the seminal vesicles and the prostatic urethra. The vas deferens is found at the seminal vesicle duct. Here, it combines with the duct.

The result is the formation of what is known as the ejaculatory duct. The ejaculatory duct drains directly into the prostatic urethra.

There is a lining of pseudostratified columnar epithelium found within the seminal vesicles. On the inside of these parts, there is a structure that resembles a similar shape as a honeycomb. Some also describe the shape as “lobulated.”

Several factors affect the columnar cells that are located inside the seminal vesicles. Testosterone, in particular, is known to have a significant impact on these columnar cells. Higher levels of testosterone can assist in increasing the secretion of seminal fluids within these glands.

Four particular parts make up what many medical experts refer to as SEED. This includes the following structures of the reproductive tract:

  • Seminal glands

  • Ejaculator ducts

  • Epididymis

  • Ductus deferens

The seminal vesicle itself is about five centimeters long. It is considered one of the larger parts of the male reproductive system.

There are several fluids and factors that are produced by the seminal vesicles. The most important fluids that are produced and mixed with sperm to produce semen here include:

  • Fructose, which helps to provide energy for the spermatozoa.

  • Alkaline fluid, which helps to neutralize the urethra in both the penis and the vagina. This helps the spermatozoa survive in both the man and the woman’s body during sexual intercourse.

  • Clotting factors, which help to ensure semen remains in the reproductive tract of the female body following sexual intercourse.

Prostaglandins, which helps to suppress the immune system of the female body when sperm enters her reproductive tract.

These substances are collectively referred to as late ejaculate fractions.

Apart from these late ejaculatory fractions, other compounds that also combine to assist in the formation of semen include:

  • Testicular spermatozoa

  • Mucus

  • Prostatic secretions

Seminal Vesicles And Prostate Cancer

There are certain conditions and factors that can affect the overall well-being of the seminal vesicles in the male body.

In some cases, the presence of a problem that affects the seminal vesicles may harm other areas of the male body. One scenario would be the prostate gland. In particular, there seems to be a relation between prostate cancer and certain problems with seminal vesicles.

A peer-reviewed research article2 published in PLOS ONE found a potential relation between seminal vesicle invasion and cancer of the prostate gland. The study particularly focused on patients who underwent a transrectal systemic biopsy. The biopsy was used to diagnose the patient with prostate cancer.

It was found that patients who experienced seminal vesicle invasion are at a higher risk of complications. In particular, there seems to be a higher risk for the recurrence of prostate cancer later on.

All patients had previously undergone a radical prostatectomy procedure as well. Another association made by the study was the location of prostate cancer. The number of positive cores detects at the base of the prostate seemed to play a role in the patient’s risk of experiencing seminal vesicle invasion.

In another study3, researchers also found a similar relation. Patients were analyzed for seminal vesicle invasion.

The condition was associated with a higher risk of lymph node metastasis in patients with prostate cancer. Tumor recurrence was also higher in patients with seminal vesicle invasion.

Up to 23% of men experience seminal vesicle invasion following surgical treatment for prostate cancer. This was found in men even when serum prostate-specific antigen levels decreased following the surgical procedure.

Researchers in the study used an endorectal MR imaging examination in order to detect the presence of seminal vesicle invasion.

Seminal Vesicle Conditions

As previously mentioned, several potential conditions can affect the seminal vesicle. These conditions can affect the function of these glands.

When functionality is affected, the man may experience problems with their fertility. This is because there may be a reduction in the production of fluids made by the seminal vesicles.

We take a closer look at the potential conditions that men need to be wary of. These can affect the seminal vesicle and have an adverse impact on fertility and reproductive health.

Seminal Vesicle Cysts

Cysts in the seminal vesicle will usually not present with any symptoms. Some men may be born with these cysts. In such a case, they are referred to as congenital seminal vesicle cysts. In other cases, they are acquired later in life. The cysts may interfere with the function of the seminal vesicle.

Seminal vesicle cysts can occur following infection. This is generally the case when the infection causes scarring in these glands. Prostate surgery may also leave scarring in these vesicles. The scarring can lead to the formation of cysts.

If these cysts are causing problems, laparoscopic surgery can be used to remove them.

Abscesses And Infection

Another concerning condition would be an infection. When an infection develops, it can cause an abscess to form in the seminal vesicle. Infection occurs when a harmful bacterium species invades these glands.

In most cases, the bacteria enter the seminal vesicle from the prostate or urethra. This happens in cases where infection affects one of these two body parts in a man.

Antibiotics are typically used to help treat an infection in the seminal vesicle. There are cases where an abscess can form, however. This causes a pocket filled with pus to develop in the vesicle.

In such a case, antibiotics will not work effectively. The abscess will usually need draining. Following the draining, antibiotics may still be prescribed to the patient.

Seminal Vesicle Stones

Seminal vesicle stones are considered extremely rare. Still, this is a possibility that can affect men. Inflammation is considered a contributing factor to seminal vesicle stones.

Structural abnormalities with the glands could also contribute. Reflux of urine could also cause problems. This is because the urine may reflux to the ejaculatory duct. This causes damage to the duct. It may also cause these stones to form.

Large stones can cause problems with the affected seminal vesicle. The same applies to cases where multiple seminal vesicles are present.

Removal of seminal vesicle stones can help resolve the issues the condition causes. Two procedures can be used. These include:

  • Laparoscopic surgery

  • Endoscopic surgery

The best option depends on a few factors unique to the patient. A doctor will decide which procedure is best for the patient.

Seminal Vesicle Cancer

It is also important to note that cancer can affect the seminal vesicle too. This is very rare, but also still a possibility to be considered. One review paper4 explains that only 48 cases were identified by the year 2000.

No details are available in terms of the causes behind seminal vesicle cancer. In most cases, malignant cancer is to blame.

Prostate cancer may invade the seminal vesicle. This causes cancerous cells in the gland. The main reason for this association is because the prostate gland and the seminal vesicles are closely located to each other.

Symptoms Of A Seminal Vesicle Condition

Many conditions that affect the seminal vesicle will not cause obvious symptoms. The symptoms that are experienced may also be confused for another condition. This is because conditions affecting the seminal vesicle is often considered relatively rare.

Still, there are some symptoms that men need to take note of. These may signal the presence of a seminal vesicle condition.

Recognizing these symptoms is important. A doctor will be able to examine the patient. Further tests may be requested if a seminal vesicle condition is suspected.

Many symptoms represent conditions that affect the reproductive system in general. Some symptoms may also be confused for a urinary tract condition or a disease that affects the pelvis.

Symptoms that men are generally advised to look out for:

  • Low semen volume when the man ejaculates

  • There may be blood present in the man’s semen

  • There may also be blood in the man’s urine

  • Discomfort may be experienced while the man ejaculates

  • Sometimes there may also be pain during ejaculation

  • Pain in the abdominal and pelvic region may occur

  • Some men experience penile pain as well

These symptoms may indicate a seminal vesicle condition. They could also be a sign of something else. This is why a diagnosis from a doctor is important in helping a man understand the health of their reproductive system and seminal vesicles.

Tips To Keep Seminal Vesicles Healthy

There are ways for men to keep their seminal vesicles healthy. With the right techniques, the risk of developing seminal vesicle conditions can be significantly reduced. This also helps to preserve the man’s reproductive health.

Here are a few tips that men need to take into account:

  • Sexually transmitted infections can scar the seminal vesicles. Practicing safe sex helps to reduce the risk of STIs.

  • A healthy weight can also help to maintain healthy seminal vesicles.

  • Diet could also potentially have an impact on seminal vesicle health. A healthy diet may help to preserve the well-being of these glands.

  • People who smoke should consider quitting this habit. Smoking may lead to a reduction in sperm mobility and reduce the sperm count of a man. It could also have a potentially concerning impact on seminal vesicles.

Conclusion

The reproductive system in the male body depends on various parts to remain healthy. Sperm cells combine with other fluids to make semen, which is expelled from the penis during sexual intercourse. The seminal vesicle is an area where most fluids found in semen are produced.

Men need to understand the role that this vesicle play in the reproductive system. It is also important to understand how certain conditions can affect the seminal vesicle.

Sources

  1. TeachMe Anatomy. The Seminal Vesicles. [online] Available at: https://teachmeanatomy.info/pelvis/the-male-reproductive-system/seminal-vesicles/
  2.  PLOS ONE.(2016) Association between Seminal Vesicle Invasion and Prostate Cancer Detection Location after Transrectal Systemic Biopsy among Men Who Underwent Radical Prostatectomy. [online] Available at: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0148690
  3. RSNA Radiology. (2013). Seminal Vesicle Invasion in Prostate Cancer: Evaluation by Using Multiparametric Endorectal MR Imaging. [online] Available at: https://pubs.rsna.org/doi/10.1148/radiol.13121319
  4. Journal of Modern Pathology. (2000). Primary Seminal Vesicle Carcinoma. An Immunohistochemical Analysis of Four Cases. [online] Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/3880008

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