Overview and Facts
After men reach 40 years of age, their prostate gland usually starts to grow. It happens to almost all men, and it is a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or an enlarged prostate gland. Prostate enlargement is one of the most common problems men 60 and older face, and more than 90% of men age 80 and older have an enlarged prostate.
The prostate gland is a part of the male reproduction system. It secretes the fluid that nourishes and carries sperm during ejaculation. The gland surrounds the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine from the bladder out through the penis. When a prostate becomes enlarged, it can put pressure on the urethra, which can cause problems in the bladder and with urination. An enlarged prostate is not usually a serious problem. It is important to know that benign prostatic hyperplasia is not prostate cancer, not does it increase the risk of developing prostate cancer.
Signs and Symptoms
Almost all men will experience prostate enlargement as they get older. However, less than half won’t experience symptoms. For those men who do experience symptoms of an enlarged prostate, they typically are:
- Inability to urinate
- Trouble starting and stopping urination (dribbling)
- Slow urine stream
- Feeling the need to more frequently urinate, even at night
- Pain with urination
- Sense of not completely emptying the bladder
- Blood in the urine
In certain cases, prostate enlargement may cause frequent urinary tract infections and possibly eventual damage to the bladder or kidney. Sometimes, symptoms of BPH may need immediate medical attention. If symptoms suddenly worsen and blood in the urine or a fever is present, speak to a doctor immediately. It can also cause acute urinary retention, which is the sudden inability to urinate, which is also a medical emergency.
Causes and Diagnosis
The prostate gland typically resembles a walnut. At the onset of BPH, bladder muscles thicken and its contractions force urine to flow through a narrowed urethra. This may result in a more sensitive bladder, which causes difficulty with urination in men with BPH.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia, or an enlarged prostate, is thought to be linked to the aging process, and the likelihood of developing an enlarged prostate increases as a man gets older. The prostate gland itself grows due to a growth in cells, or hyperplasia. What exactly causes this hyperplasia is unknown, though research shows it may be linked to fluctuating hormones in men as they age. Prostate enlargement is also thought to be linked to the testicles, as men who have had testicles removed when they were younger do not develop an enlarged prostate. And if a man has testicles removed after developing BPH, the prostate gland tends to shrink on its own.
Enlarged prostate diagnosis:Once men reach 50 years of age, they should have their prostate checked annually, even if no symptoms of an enlarged prostate are present. And if symptoms are present, you should seek out a doctor’s care.
When you visit a doctor, a physical exam and medical history will be completed first to see if other medical issues could be causing symptoms. Next, a digital rectal exam will be completed to examine the prostate gland. In this exam, the doctor inserts a gloved and lubricated finger into the rectum to feel the prostate and assess its size. The doctor can also feel for lumps or hard areas, which could indicate prostate cancer.
Beyond a rectal exam, a doctor may do a urinalysis to check urine for signs of infection. If further tests are deemed necessary, men may be referred to a urologist, which is a doctor who specializes in urinary tract diseases.
Tests and Treatment Options
If enlarged prostate symptoms are mild, no immediate treatment may be prescribed other than continuing to get at least one exam per year to make sure symptoms are not causing other complications. Most men over age 60 do have symptoms, but they are minor enough that they don’t disrupt daily activities. If symptoms become severe and start to affect daily life, medical or surgical treatments may be necessary to provide BPH relief.
Helpful Tips and Home Remedies
There are some self-care techniques that can be used to prevent symptoms for occurring and worsening:
- If you have the urge to urinate, don’t delay
- Empty the bladder completely when you urinate
- Try and avoid caffeine and alcohol, particularly after dinner
- Don’t drink fluids within 2 hours of going to bed
- Try not to drink a lot of fluid at one time
- Reduce stress
- Avoid cold and sinus medications that contain decongestants or antihistamines (they make BPH symptoms worse)
- Exercise regularly
- Keep out of cold weather