Bulbourethral Gland vs. Prostate Gland

What's the Difference?

The bulbourethral gland and prostate gland are both accessory reproductive glands found in males. However, they differ in terms of their location and function. The bulbourethral gland, also known as Cowper's gland, is located below the prostate gland and is responsible for producing a clear, viscous fluid that helps to lubricate the urethra during sexual arousal. On the other hand, the prostate gland is situated just below the bladder and surrounds the urethra. It produces a milky fluid that forms a significant portion of semen, providing nutrients and protection for sperm. While both glands contribute to the overall reproductive process, the bulbourethral gland primarily focuses on lubrication, while the prostate gland plays a more significant role in semen production.


AttributeBulbourethral GlandProstate Gland
LocationNear the base of the penis, below the prostate glandBelow the bladder, surrounding the urethra
SizeSmall, pea-sizedLarger, walnut-sized
FunctionProduces a clear, viscous fluid that lubricates the urethra and neutralizes any acidic urine residueProduces a milky fluid that nourishes and protects sperm, and helps in their motility
SecretionsProduces pre-ejaculate fluidProduces prostatic fluid
Associated ConditionsBulbourethral gland cysts, inflammationProstatitis, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), prostate cancer

Further Detail

Anatomy and Location

The bulbourethral gland, also known as Cowper's gland, is a small exocrine gland located below the prostate gland in the male reproductive system. It is about the size of a pea and is situated on either side of the urethra. On the other hand, the prostate gland is a larger gland that surrounds the urethra and is located just below the bladder. It is roughly the size of a walnut and is positioned in front of the rectum.


The bulbourethral gland plays a crucial role in the male reproductive system by producing a clear, viscous fluid known as pre-ejaculate. This fluid helps to neutralize any residual acidity in the urethra, providing a more favorable environment for sperm survival and motility. Additionally, it lubricates the urethra, facilitating the passage of sperm during ejaculation. In contrast, the prostate gland is responsible for producing prostatic fluid, which is a milky substance that constitutes a significant portion of semen. This fluid contains enzymes, citric acid, and prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which help to nourish and protect sperm, as well as enhance their motility.


The bulbourethral gland primarily consists of secretory cells that produce the pre-ejaculate fluid. This fluid is composed of water, electrolytes, enzymes, and mucin. On the other hand, the prostate gland is composed of both glandular and muscular tissue. The glandular tissue is responsible for producing the prostatic fluid, while the muscular tissue helps in the expulsion of semen during ejaculation.

Size and Shape

As mentioned earlier, the bulbourethral gland is relatively small, measuring about 1-2 centimeters in length. It has an elongated shape and is located on either side of the urethra. In contrast, the prostate gland is larger, measuring approximately 3-4 centimeters in length. It has a rounded shape and surrounds the urethra, forming a donut-like structure.

Development and Age-related Changes

The bulbourethral gland develops during embryogenesis from the urogenital sinus, which is a precursor to the urethra and other reproductive structures. It reaches its full development by puberty. However, with advancing age, the bulbourethral gland may undergo certain changes, such as a decrease in size and a decline in secretory function. These changes are generally considered a normal part of the aging process.

Similarly, the prostate gland also undergoes age-related changes. In some individuals, the prostate gland may enlarge over time, a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). This enlargement can lead to urinary symptoms, such as frequent urination, weak urine flow, and difficulty emptying the bladder. Additionally, the prostate gland is also prone to the development of prostate cancer, especially in older men. Regular screening and early detection are crucial for managing prostate cancer effectively.

Associated Disorders

Disorders associated with the bulbourethral gland are relatively rare. However, inflammation or infection of the gland, known as bulbourethral glanditis, can occur. This condition may cause discomfort, pain, or swelling in the area. Treatment typically involves antibiotics and supportive measures to alleviate symptoms.

On the other hand, the prostate gland is more prone to various disorders. Besides benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate cancer, prostatitis is another common condition that affects the prostate gland. Prostatitis refers to the inflammation of the prostate gland and can cause symptoms such as pain in the pelvic area, difficulty urinating, and sexual dysfunction. Treatment for prostatitis depends on the underlying cause and may involve antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medications, and lifestyle modifications.


In summary, the bulbourethral gland and prostate gland are two important glands in the male reproductive system. While the bulbourethral gland primarily produces pre-ejaculate fluid to lubricate and neutralize the urethra, the prostate gland produces prostatic fluid that nourishes and protects sperm. Both glands have distinct anatomical locations, sizes, and functions. Understanding the attributes of these glands is crucial for comprehending the male reproductive system and diagnosing and managing associated disorders effectively.

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