Find out what is and what is the function of the little-known Cowper’s gland

Also known as the bulbourethral gland, the gland of Cowper it is part of two glands that belong to the male reproductive system. This gland was discovered in 1699 by the surgeon Willian Cowper.

The cowper’s gland it participates fundamentally in the secretion of precum, although it also has other functions. That is why it is important to know about the Cowper’s gland: what is it and what is their role.

What is Cowper’s gland?

To understand in detail everything about the Cowper’s gland what is itIt must be borne in mind that they are two pairs of bodies. These measure between about 3 and 5 mm in diameter, located on each side of the urethra. Towards the level of the back narrow part of the pelvis, towards the base of the penis and back of the prostate.

The cowper’s gland It was first described in 1699 by a renowned surgeon and anatomist named William Cowper. So far it has been found in each of the animals, except the dog. Its structure and size is variable, taking into account not simply the species but also the individual. This means that its variability is intra-individual.

In reference to cowper gland what is itIt must be borne in mind that according to its position and origin that make it up, it is homologous to the vestibular glands. Also called “bartolini glands,” which are found within the female reproductive system. Unlike the cowper’s gland, the bartolini glands are located on the sides of the vaginal opening. Which are not very visible due to their small size.

What is the role of the cowper’s gland?

When talking about gland cowper function, it is necessary to understand that it intervenes in the expulsion and production of a portion of the precum. The bulborethral or cowper glands are exocrine. It means that their secretions are going to flow out of the body.

However, in this case, the substances they produce are not expelled in isolation, but rather they mix with those produced by the seminal vesicles as well as the prostate. Thus forming the well-known precum.

Following this point in relation to cowper’s gland function, it has been possible to describe a secondary function of this part of the male body. This gland secretes glycoproteins, as in the case of prostate specific antigen, also known as PSA. This relies on the immune defense function in the genitourinary tract. Although it also helps to dissolve seminal clots, thus allowing free passage of sperm.

In other words, the cowper’s gland secretes a slippery and viscous substance responsible for lubricating the lining of the urethra. Which is the conduit through which urine passes and also semen in the man’s genitals. After the erection of the penis (process of sexual stimulation), this secretion is part of the first ones that are expelled.

In accordance with cowper gland what is it, the substance in question starts to mix with other mucous or serous materials, including glycoproteins. Where it has been shown that it has substances with an alkaline pH. Thing that seems to neutralize the acidity in the possible residues generated by the urine. Which are found in the urethra and within vaginal fluids

Although it seems that everything related to gland cowper function it is of little importance, it really is not. It is possible that diseases or pathologies develop in the cowper’s gland. Being able to take the man to a problematic situation and pathological circumstances that have to do with reproduction, urination or sexuality in general. These diseases can be acquired or congenital.

What are the diseases of the cowper gland?

Although the best known diseases of the male reproductive system are those that affect the prostate, those that affect the cowper gland are more common. Which, as mentioned, can be acquired or congenital.

With respect to cowper gland what is it, those acquired diseases that affect it are inflammatory. But it can also cause infections, neoplasms or calcifications, in the same way that it happens with the prostate gland.

On the other hand, those lesions that are congenital are normally asymptomatic. And among these is included the cystic dilation of what is the duct or siringocele. However, there are times that it means a problem with respect to the differential diagnosis with the lesions that are more severe. Among the most common diseases of this part of the body are:

Cowper syringocele

This is a rare deformity in the male urethra and is related to distention of the main duct in the bulbourethral glands. Not much is known about its origin, but it has been shown through experiments that it is related to the lack of the growth factor TGF-B2.

This disease can be open or closed. For the first case, the pathology is observed as a kind of inflammation very similar to a cyst, distended towards the wall of the urethra. In the second case, there is an opening that allows the existence of urine reflux to the syringocele.

Lesions in the bulbourethral glands are classified into four groups:

– Simple: This is a minimum expansion in the duct.

– Perforated: Where there is the formation of a bulbous duct that drains to the urethra, very similar to a diverticulum.

– Unperforated: It is also a bulbous duct very similar to a submucosal cyst.

– Broken: The remaining membrane of the urethra breaks after the duct dilates.

Stones or stones

Certain diseases of the cowper glands are also related to internal calcification, which is more common in elderly patients. These calcifications, stones or stones are usually phosphate salts of calcium. But they can also be magnesium, calcium carbonate, potassium, and calcium oxalate.


It is a learned lesson that is based on the inflammation of the gland, so it can be an acute condition or its chronic difference. In acute cases, there is fever, severe perineal pain, and general malaise. Pain with bowel movements and acute retention of urine are also possible.


They are malignant tumors and in the glands in question they can develop and at the same time be identified as a deformation in the glands, as well as the appearance of analplastic cells. This means that they are poorly differentiated cells, of abnormal growth and of opposite orientation to the cells of the tissue to which they are part.

Preseminal fluid and cowper’s gland

As mentioned, the precum is released by the bulbourethral glands before the semen exits. This liquid with large amounts of mucins, has different functions within the male reproductive system:

Lubrication and washing of the urethral canal: The precum, as has been said, is responsible for dragging the urine residues that are in the urethral canal. Because, as is known, both urine and semen are released through the urethral canal. This liquid has an alkaline pH that neutralizes urine waste. But it also neutralizes the pH of sperm within vaginal fluids during intercourse.

Thicken the semen: Due to the high content of mucins and other waxy substances, the precum contributes a proportion of an appropriate medium for the sperm to move. Which is thick enough to protect them from external agents, but not too thick to prevent movement from being more or less fluid.

It must be remembered that the precum is the non-cellular fraction of semen and is released in the first stage of ejaculation. Although this is a cell-free faction, the precum may contain sperm. But that are dragged or come from previous ejaculations.

That is why they are not visible, since they have little or no mobility, are usually degenerated and do not have nutrients like the rest of the seminal fluid. Therefore, the possibility of a pregnancy occurring when in contact with precum is very small, but it does not mean that they are null.

Sources: Lifeder, A teacher. The servier.