Many men suffer from an enlarged prostate gland. Because an enlarged prostate most often affects men over the age of 50, many younger men may be unaware of the symptoms of an enlarged prostate. However, identifying warning signs early can lead to an earlier diagnosis and a more effective course of treatment.
What is an enlarged prostate?
An enlarged prostate, known as prostatitis or sometimes benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH, is the inflammation of the prostate. What causes the prostate to expand is largely unknown, but the condition has been linked to a few different factors. It may occur as a result of a bacterial infection or decreased immune function. Others find it is the result of weakening muscles. Genetics and the aging process also play a role in prostate enlargement. According to Prostate.net, men have a 50 percent chance of getting prostatitis in their lifetimes. Since the condition is so common, some believe that all men could eventually have an enlarged prostate if they live long enough.
Symptoms of an enlarged prostate vary in their severity, and a small amount of inflammation can cause major symptoms and vice versa. Information from the United States National Library of Medicine says less than half of all men with an enlarged prostate actually have symptoms of the disease. Those who do may experience any number of the following:
* Weak or slow urine stream
* Feeling of incomplete bladder emptying
* Increased urinary frequency or urgency
* Testicular pain
* Pain with ejaculation
* Straining to urinate
* Continued dribbling of urine
* Stopping and starting while urinating
For many men, the increased frequency to visit the bathroom is one of the first indicators that there may be an issue with the prostate gland. Those who have slept comfortably through the night may now be rising one or two times per night to urinate.
Many times an enlarged prostate, which leads to an inability to fully empty the bladder, can trigger urinary tract infections. This may compound symptoms and cause additional pain or burning when passing urine, as well as increased urinary urgency. An infection also may lead to blood in the urine.
Diagnosing an enlarged prostate
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland located between the bladder and the penis. The prostate secretes fluid that nourishes and protects sperm, and is responsible for pushing this fluid into the urethra prior to ejaculation. The prostate gland's proximity to the bladder and the penis is largely what causes the problems with urination. Also, because of the prostate's location, the single best way to detect enlargement of the gland is through a digital rectal examination, or DRE, during which a doctor will insert his or her finger into the rectum and feel for the prostate to see if it is enlarged or tender. Should there be any indication of an abnormality, a prostate-specific antigen blood test, or PSA, or an ultrasound may be suggested.
Medical treatment often helps alleviate the symptoms of an enlarged prostate. A doctor may prescribe alpha-blockers, which relax the muscles around the urethra to help urine flow more freely. If enlargement is due to infection, antibiotics could be given. Other medications, such as 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors, reduce the level of a certain form of testosterone called DHT. With less DHT present, the prostate shrinks. If medications do not alleviate symptoms, surgery may be necessary. In some cases, an enlarged prostate may be an indicator of prostate cancer. A doctor may want to run tests to see if cancer is present. Prostate cancer is often very slow-growing, and some people prefer a wait-and-see method of treatment if symptoms are not troublesome.
Understanding enlarged prostate symptoms can help men with the condition feel better faster.