What is an Enlarged Prostate?
An enlarged prostate in medical terms is referred to as Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH). The prostate is a walnut shaped gland present in the male reproductive system and surrounds the urethra. The prostate gland’s main function is the secretion of fluids which from part of semen for the purpose of neutralizing the vagina’s acidic environment once semen is ejaculated during coitus. These fluids are also said to energize the sperms. Benign prostatic hyperplasia is said to occur when the cells of the prostate gland increase in number causing an enlarged prostate. Benign prostatic hyperplasia is also characterized by the obstruction of the urinary tract by the enlarged prostate.
The Age Factor
Aging is said to be a major contributor in the occurrence of an enlarged prostate. Some accredited researches have proved that the prostate gland begins to grow again at the age of twenty five after the initial growth in puberty. Therefore, as a man ages, his prostate gland keeps enlarging. However, symptoms only begin to manifest when a man is between forty and fifty years. More than fifty percent of men above sixty years old suffer from benign prostatic hyperplasia and the percentage increases to up to ninety percent of men above eighty to ninety years.
What are the Symptoms of an Enlarged Prostate?
The symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia are associated with the urinary tract due to the fact that an enlarged prostate obstructs the urinary pathway in men hindering its proper function. These symptoms include:
- A weak urine stream
- Increased frequency of urination during nighttime
- Inability to urinate
- Inability to completely empty the urinary bladder
- Dribbling during urination
- Strain while urinating
- Strong and prompt urge to urinate
What are the Causes of Prostate Enlargement?
The exact cause of benign prostatic hyperplasia is not known. This condition may as well be a natural part of aging like grey hair is. In fact, researchers claim that every man will eventually get an enlarged prostate if he lives long enough. However, the following are said to contribute to the enlargement of the prostate whether directly or indirectly:
- Androgens have to be present. This is why men who have had their testicles removed at an early age do not develop benign prostatic hyperplasia
- The conversion of androgens to estrogen which occurs as a man ages
Diagnosis: Exams and Tests
Once a man experiences the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia and visits his doctor, a medical history will be taken. Furthermore, in order to properly diagnose the condition, further tests will be done focusing on the urinary tract. They include:
- Digital Rectal Exam: This is performed by the doctor who palpates the prostate from the rectum to check for any swelling
- Urine Flow Study: While the patient urinates, the doctor will observe the rate and pressure of the flow of urine
- Cystoscopy: This exam involves inserting a cystoscope, a small tube containing a lens and a light bulb, into the opening of the urethra in the penis. It enables observation of the bladder and urethra
- Rectal Ultrasound: This test involves inserting a probe into the rectum which directs sound waves towards the prostate gland. This enables the formation of an image on a display screen. The rectal ultrasound will enable the doctor to detect any abnormal or cancerous growth of the prostate gland
- Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Blood Test: This test is done in order to detect elevated levels of PSA in the blood which would indicate a cancerous growth
- Urinalysis: Urine samples of the patients are taken and tested for the presence of blood and to determine the presence of infections in the urinary tract
What are the Possible Complications Associated with an Enlarged Prostate?
Men who suffer from benign prostatic hyperplasia for a long time may develop more complications in their urinary tract. In addition, the initial symptoms of an enlarged prostate may become more severe and problematic. Common complication associated with longstanding benign prostatic hyperplasia include:
- Urinary tract infections
- Kidney damage and failure
- Urinary tract stones
- Blood and or pus in the urine
- Inability to urinate
- Fever and chills
- Abdominal pain
- Recurrence of benign prostatic hyperplasia even after surgical treatment
Treatment and Care
Because of the fact that benign prostatic hyperplasia is or may be considered a natural part of aging, conclusive and accredited research has suggested that up to fifty percent of patients with this condition do not need immediate treatment. What they need is constant observation of the progression of the condition. Some patients get by with mere observation as the conditions sorts itself out but others will eventually need treatment. Treatment can be in several forms some surgical and others non-surgical. Treatment and care include the following:
This particular applies if the symptoms being manifested are mild. Self-care requires the full contribution of the patient who is advised to observe the following:
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine
- Avoid drinking fluids two hours before bedtime
- Avoid drinking a lot of fluid at once
- Exercise regularly and keep warm
- Learn how to perform Kegel exercises and do them regularly
- Avoid over the counter cold medication and decongestants which elevate the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia
- Avoid stress, nervousness and anxiety as this leads to frequent urination
If your doctor opts to prescribe medication, there are three popular and effective choices:
- Alpha 1-Blockers: These tablets relax the bladder muscles enabling easier urination
- Finasteride and Dutasteride: These tablets lower the level of hormones produced by the prostate gland thereby alleviating the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia. They are known to have side effects such as impotence and low libido
- Antibiotics successfully alleviate the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia by curing any prostatic inflammation which often accompanies the condition
There are several surgical procedures that can be carried out depending on the severity of the condition.
- Non-invasive procedures such as Transurethral Microwave procedures which destroy excessive prostate tissue using microwave heat and Transurethral Needle Ablation which uses radiofrequency energy to burn away an enlarged prostate
- Transurethral Resection of the Prostate (TURP): Performed by inserting a scope into the urethra that removes the prostate piece by piece
- Transurethral Incision of the Prostate (TUIP): Performed by making a small incision in the prostate tissue for a urethra and bladder outlet
- Prostatectomy: This is the removal of the inner part of the prostate gland
The herb saw palmetto is recommended as alternative treatment as it has been used by millions of men to alleviate the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Consult your doctor before taking this herb.
All in all, an enlarged prostate is a highly common condition with several treatment options hence it is hardly life threatening. If you are less than forty years old, you may have nothing to worry about. However, as you grow older, your chances of getting the condition keep increasing. Therefore, make healthy lifestyle choices and be keen on the state of your urinary tract by observing your urinary flow in order to detect the condition early.