The prostate gland is about the size of a walnut and located below the bladder and in front of the rectum. The prostate gland performs an essential role in producing a liquid thick, milky-white fluid, which becomes part of the semen ejaculated during sexual activity. It is wrapped around the upper part of the urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body, this explains why the urinary tract and reproductive activity is related to the prostate gland.
Typically, the size of the prostate begins to increase as a man gets older; it is considered a natural process of ageing. There are three conditions that the prostate is prone to, they include the following:
Prostatitis is an infection or inflammation of the prostate. It can cause an urgent need to urinate, trouble urinating, burning or painful urination, difficult or painful ejaculation and pain in the area between the scrotum and rectum (known as the perineum) or in the lower back.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
BPH causes the prostate to enlarge as a man gets older, affecting about three-quarters of men over 60. As men get older, the bladder muscle gradually becomes larger, thicker, and overly sensitive. As the prostate grows bigger, it can compress the urethra, causing a need to urinate frequently. Eventually, the bladder muscle cannot overcome the effect of the narrowed urethra so urine remains in the bladder and it is not completely emptied, which could lead to severe complications.
The unusual growth of cancerous cells inside the prostate, which may break out of the gland and affect other parts of the body.
What Causes An Enlarged Prostate?
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) is a condition associated with ageing in men. BPH is a noncancerous enlargement of the prostate that blocks the flow of urine through the urethra. As the urethra grows thinner, the bladder has to contract more forcefully to push urine out of the body, causing painful, frequent urination and incomplete emptying of the bladder.
When the bladder does not empty completely, it constitutes an increased risk of developing urinary tract infections. Other serious problems can also develop over time, including bladder stones, blood in the urine, incontinence and acute urinary retention (an inability to urinate).
Although the exact cause of BPH is uncertain, changes in male sex hormones that come with ageing may represent a prime factor. About one-third of men experience moderate to severe symptoms by age 60, and about half do so by age 80.
Estrogen has also been linked to prostate enlargement. As men age, they produce less testosterone and a more estrogen. Excessive levels of estrogen have been associated with this condition.
In addition, it could be hereditary, as men who have a family history of prostate problems or any abnormalities with testicles tend to have higher risks of BPH.
Studies show that men with diabetes or heart disease may use beta blockers, which could increase the risk of BPH.
Equally, a sedentary lifestyle and obesity increase the risk of BPH.
It’s important to note that having a larger prostate does not necessarily mean you suffer from BPH. The position in relation to the urethra is more crucial than the actual size. However, if you experience any of the symptoms listed below, you may need to seek medical assistance.
Symptoms Of An Enlarged Prostate
- A weak or interrupted urinary stream.
- Urgent and frequent desire to urinate.
- Getting up frequently at night to urinate.
- A urinary stream that starts and stops.
- Inability to completely empty the bladder during urination.
- Trouble initiating urine flow even on a full bladder
- The need to urinate two or more times per night and dribbling at the end of your urinary stream
In severe cases
- Urinary tract infection.
- Inability to urinate.
- Blood in the urine.
While these are most common symptoms, you may have an enlarged prostate and still not experience any of these. It is safe for men above the age of 40 to frequently undergo prostate health examinations.
Complications of an enlarged prostate can include the following:
- Urinary Retention: this is the sudden inability to urinate. In this case, surgery might be needed to relieve urinary retention. A tube (catheter) is inserted into the bladder to drain the urine.
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs): the inability to fully empty the bladder can increase the risk of infection in the urinary tract.
- Bladder stones: bladder stones are generally caused by infections. The inability to completely empty the bladder can cause infection, bladder irritation, blood in the urine and obstruction of urine flow.
- Bladder damage: this is still linked to an unemptied bladder, which can stretch the muscular wall of the bladder and cause it to weaken over time.
- Kidney damage: pressure in the bladder from urinary retention can directly damage the kidneys or allow bladder infections to reach the kidneys.
Having an enlarged prostate is not believed to increase your risk of developing prostate cancer.
Although most men with an enlarged prostate don’t develop these complications. However, acute urinary retention and kidney damage can cause serious health threats. Also, note that symptoms of bladder cancer, overactive bladder (OAB), and urinary retention may be similar to that of an enlarged prostate.
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