What is the prostate?
The prostate is a walnut-shaped gland that is part of the male reproductive system. The main function of the prostate is to make most of the fluid of the semen. Prostate fluid is essential for a man’s fertility. The gland surrounds the urethra at the neck of the bladder. The bladder neck is the area where the urethra joins the bladder. The bladder and urethra are parts of the lower urinary tract. The prostate has two or more lobes, or sections, enclosed by an outer layer of tissue, and it is in front of the rectum, just below the bladder. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. In men, the urethra also carries semen out through the penis. The prostate slowly grows larger with age. If it gets too large, it can cause problems with the drainage of urine. This is very common after age 50. The older men get, the more likely they are to have prostate trouble.
What are prostate problems?
For men under age 50, the most common prostate problem is prostatitis, meaning the prostate is inflamed. For men over age 50, the most common prostate problem is prostate enlargement. This condition is also called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH. Prostate cancer is another problem that can affect men usually after 50 years of age or sometimes earlier if there is a strong family history of the disease.
Prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate gland. There are three types of prostatitis:
Acute (severe) infectious prostatitis
This may be caused by a bacteria or virus. The symptoms come on suddenly and may be severe. They include fever and chills, low back pain, frequent and painful urination, decreasing or less forceful urinary stream and urinary retention (the bladder does not empty urine completely).
Chronic (long-lasting) infectious prostatitis
This also may be caused by a bacteria. Stress, caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol may worsen the condition. Symptoms may include repeat bladder infections, frequent urination, and pain in the lower abdomen or low back.
This form of prostatitis is not caused by a bacteria and therefore antibiotics are not helpful. This is the most common type of prostatitis. It may be exacerbated by stress and/or irregular sexual activity. Stress may cause the pelvis muscles to tighten and cause pain. Increased pressure during voiding may cause urine to back up into the ducts resulting in a form of chemical prostatitis. The prostate gland produces fluid for semen and infrequent ejaculation may cause the ducts to become clogged with secretions.
Prostatitis is not contagious to your sexual partner. The symptoms of prostatitis are similar to those of benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlargement of the prostate) or urethritis (inflammation of urethra). It is important to see your physician for a prostate examination so that the proper treatment may be initiated.
What causes prostatitis?
Prostatitis is sometimes caused by bacteria. But usually no bacteria are present and doctors will look for other possible causes of urinary symptoms, such as a kidney stone or cancer. If no other causes are found, your doctor may decide you have nonbacterial prostatitis.
How is prostatitis treated?
If you have bacterial prostatitis, your doctor can give you an antibiotic to fight the infection. If you keep getting infections, you may have a defect in your prostate that allows bacteria to grow. This defect can usually be corrected with surgery.
Antibiotics will not help nonbacterial prostatitis. Instead, your doctor may give you a medicine to relax the muscle tissue in the prostate. Changing your diet or taking warm baths may help too.
Benign prostate hyperplasia
Also called BPH––is a condition in men in which the prostate gland is enlarged and not cancerous. Benign prostatic hyperplasia is also called benign prostatic hypertrophy or benign prostatic obstruction.
As the prostate enlarges, the gland presses against and pinches the urethra. The bladder wall becomes thicker. Eventually, the bladder may weaken and lose the ability to empty completely, leaving some urine in the bladder. The narrowing of the urethra and urinary retention––the inability to empty the bladder completely––cause many of the problems associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia.
What are the symptoms of BPH?
Some symptoms of BPH include
- a frequent and urgent need to urinate
- trouble starting a urine stream
- a weak stream of urine
- the feeling you still have to urinate, even when you have just finished
- small amounts of blood in your urine
What causes BPH?
The cause of benign prostatic hyperplasia is not well understood; however, it occurs mainly in older men. Aging and testosterone (male Hormone ) are essential for prostate growth. Benign prostatic hyperplasia affects about 50 percent of men between the ages of 51 and 60 and up to 90 percent of men older than 80.
How is BPH treated?
Some options are
- living with your symptoms, if they don’t bother you too much, and regular checkups to make sure your condition isn’t getting worse
- medicines to shrink or relax the prostate
- surgery to remove part of the prostate
What else could cause the same symptoms?
Frequent or painful urination, especially with blood in the urine, could be signs of bladder cancer. If you have these symptoms, see your doctor right away.
What symptoms should cause me to seek medical advice?
Common signs to look for include difficulty in passing urine, a weak flow or a flow that stops and starts, having to wait before you go, urgency or frequency, pain during urination or ejaculation, or having to get up at night to urinate.
What steps can I take to help prevent prostate problems?
Lower intake of most meats and dairy products, along with decreased sugar and starch intake.
Moderate physical exercise and regular ejaculation also appear to contribute to prostate health.