As men age, their prostate gland grows, and if not treated at the first sign of symptoms, it can lead to serious health issues such as urinary tract infections, urinary stones, and even damage to the kidneys.
Enlarged prostate gland disorder is a natural aging process that affects most men and is the most common health issue for men over 60 years of age.
The prostate gland is responsible for secreting fluid that protects and nourishes the sperm.
Beginning as the size of a walnut, this gland sits between the penis and the bladder—with the urethra running through it—sending urine from the bladder to the penis. The prostate excretes the fluid into the urethra during ejaculation to blend with the sperm to create semen.
What Causes Enlarged Prostate Gland
There is no concrete reason why the cells in the gland increase in number; experts just know that it is constantly growing once a man reaches his forties. This phenomenon, known in medical terms as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), is linked to male hormones (androgens), estrogens, and other growth factors.
Risk factors for prostate gland enlargement include age, as men do not experience symptoms until the age of 60 with the majority reporting signs after the age of 80 years. Heredity can also play a big role as your risk increases if your father or brother has symptoms.
In keeping with family, your ethnic background plays a part as Caucasian and African-American men have a higher risk than those of Asian background. Other high-risk factors are health related such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Enlarged Prostate Gland Symptoms
As stated, symptoms usually appear around the age of 60 years, even though the gland has been constantly growing for approximately 20 years. These symptoms range from mild to severe and are referred to as LUTS, or lower urinary tract symptoms, although LUTS can be caused by other disorders.
When the prostate gland increases in size, it squeezes the urethra, making urine flow slow and difficult as the bladder muscle is thicker and works harder. It eventually becomes sensitive, sending urine more often through the urethra and at a faster rate. The obstruction of urine flow by the enlarged gland results in various issues.
- Weak stream of urine
- Difficulty of flow beginning
- Dribble after urination
- Sense of full bladder after urination
- Frequent urge, especially at night
- Blood in urine
- Painful urination
Over time, some of the symptoms may stop on their own but some need medical attention, especially as serious complications can arise from many of the symptoms. Serious complications include urinary retention, urinary tract infections, bladder stones, bladder damage, and even kidney damage.
It is important to note an enlarged prostate gland does not signal prostate cancer. Although some men with an enlarged prostate develop prostate cancer, there are no studies linking the two, nor is there any sign of increased risk.
To maintain good prostate health, all men over the age of 50 should have a prostate check-up with their doctor annually even if they show no symptoms.
How to Treat Enlarged Prostate Gland
See your doctor for more severe symptoms such as difficulty urinating, blood in urine, fever and chills, pain in lower back or abdominal regions, or not having your bladder empty completely after urinating. It is important for them to discuss your medical history and run tests to determine the severity of your symptoms.
Common Tests for Prostate Gland:
- digital rectal exam
- urine flow rate
- post-void residual urine test
- pressure-flow study
- urine culture collection
- prostate-specific blood test
Depending on your results, there is an array of treatment options available such as lifestyle change, prescription medications, and even surgery. These options will not prevent or cure the effects of an enlarged prostate gland, but they may help relieve some of the more “pressing” symptoms.
Some of the medications used to help treat symptoms include alpha-1 blockers to help relax the muscles of the bladder and prostate, finasteride and dutasteride to reduce the size of the gland as well as increase urine flow, and antibiotics to treat any inflammation that may occur.
Surgery may be needed to deal with bladder stones, low kidney function, urinary retention, incontinence or reoccurring urinary tract infections and blood in the urine. You may undergo a transurethral resection of the prostate, where it is removed in pieces; a simple prostatectomy by an abdominal cut to remove the prostate; or even less invasive procedures to rid of prostate tissue.
If you decide not to seek medical treatment for the milder symptoms, there are things you can do to help lessen the symptoms.
- Schedule bathroom breaks, even if you do not have the urge to urinate
- Go to the bathroom as soon as you feel the first urge to urinate
- Refrain from caffeine and alcohol, especially in the evenings
- Limit fluid intake two hours before bedtime
- Avoid medications containing decongestants or antihistamines
- Exercise regularly
- Keep warm
- Perform Kegel exercises to help strengthen the pelvic region
- Avoid stressful situations
- Use the herb saw palmetto to help relive symptoms
An enlarged prostate gland is a natural part of aging for the majority of the male population. While there may not be a preventative option, there are things you can do to slow down or relieve the symptoms. Most men lead regular productive lives well into old age before they begin noticing symptoms.
If you are a man over 50, be sure to get regular prostate exams and talk to your doctor about any concerns or symptoms you may be experiencing.