Enlarged Prostate


Basics

We are often asked about prostate health. An enlarged prostate typically occurs in a man after he reaches the age of 40. This condition is also known as BPH or benign prostatic hyperplasia.

The prostate wraps around the urethra below the bladder and between the pubic bone and the rectum. The urethra is the tube that carries the urine from the bladder to the tip of the penis for elimination. As the prostate begins to grow, it presses on the urethra, squeezing it and causing it to become narrower. Urinary problems, such as weak urine stream, difficulty urinating, or urine leakage may begin to appear. These symptoms may be a source of great embarrassment to the individual suffering from an enlarged prostate.



An enlarged prostate is considered a common ailment in men over the age of 60. In the beginning, when the prostate is just starting to enlarge, the bladder counters the effects of the narrowed urethra by contracting more forcefully and forcing the urine through the urethra. This in turn causes the bladder to thicken and increase in sensitivity, resulting in the need to urinate more frequently. These urges commonly occur at night, disrupting the individual's sleep pattern and causing a whole host of side effects relating to fatigue, such as weakness, attention difficulties, and memory issues.

If the enlarged prostate is not diagnosed and treated within a reasonable period of time, the pressure of the prostate on the urethra may result in blockage, causing urination to become impossible. This is considered a medical emergency. With the prostate gland enlarged, urinary problems such as frequent urinary tract infections, bladder infections, and kidney damage are typical complications that may be experienced.

Prevention

There is no effective way to prevent the occurrence of an enlarged prostate, but there are some steps that can be taken to maintain good prostate health. One of the items recommended the most for good prostate health is to urinate as soon as the urge is felt.

It is also recommended that the individual drink eight glasses of water a day to avoid the build up of bacteria in the bladder and to ensure that the individual will be urinating properly. Some individuals believe that drinking cranberry juice will also reduce the amount of bacteria in the bladder, leading to better health for the bladder and urethra.

Treatment

Sometimes prevention is not enough to ensure good prostate health. With the prostate gland enlarged, urinary problems are likely to occur. Doctors usually treat these with medications. There are two main types of medications that can be used. One type of medication is meant to shrink the prostate gland. The other type is meant to relax the muscles in the prostate gland. Both kinds of medicines will reduce the pressure of the prostate on the urethra. Both types of medications carry the risk of side effects, however. Common side effects include dizziness, drowsiness, chest pain, back pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, and sexual side effects.

If medication does not relieve the enlarged prostate, surgery is usually recommended. The most common type of surgery involves going through the urethra to reach the prostate. Part of the prostate is then scraped away. Laser surgery is another option. Risks associated with prostate surgery include pain during the recovery process, post-op infection, sexual side effects, and urinary incontinence.

Many men want to avoid the risks associated with medical and surgical treatment for prostate trouble. They prefer to try natural treatments instead. Natural treatments are very effective, and usually don't have the severe side effects common to other treatments.

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When To See Your Doctor

After age 40, you should see your doctor yearly for a prostate exam. Ask your doctor how you can ensure good prostate health.



Additional Reading: Be sure to read our additional section on benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). It contains more information on BPH treatment. If you have concerns about using prescription medications, take a look at our page on flomax for enlarged prostate. See if flowmax is right for you.


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