All There Is To Know About An Enlarged Prostate

With aging come wrinkles, graying hair, less energy to do things, and a certain dislike for birthdays (for most). In men, it also brings about changes in their prostate. And, while most discussions on genital health are centered around women, we’re looking into something most men go through. Here’s what we know about disorders caused by an enlarged prostrate.

What Does “Enlarged Prostate” Mean?

The prostate is a small, muscular gland that’s found in front of the rectum and just below the bladder. It makes most of the fluid in the semen. During sexual climax, the prostate gland is responsible for ejaculation.

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An enlarged prostrate indicates that the gland has swollen or gotten bigger. Although extremely common in men over the age of 40, there are three conditions that are associated with an enlarged prostate.1 2

Disorders Caused By An Enlarged Prostate

1. Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH)

Swelling of the prostate gland causes BPH.

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Benign prostatic hypertrophy is caused when the cells of the prostrate gland multiply rapidly. This leads to additional cells which cause the gland to swell, squeezing the urethra in the process.

If you’ve been a sound sleeper but have been waking up to urinate often, or if you feel like you’re having to urinate too often, you might have an enlarged prostrate. There are certain symptoms of BPH.

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Symptoms of BPH

  • A weak urine stream
  • Urgency, leaking, or dribbling during and after urination
  • Feeling of incomplete emptying
  • Frequent urination, especially at night
  • Painful urination
  • Blood in urine
  • The need to strain when urinating

If you do experience any of these symptoms, do consult a medical professional. Diagnosis of BPH includes a series of tests like urinalysis, prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test, cystoscopy, and pressure-flow studies. These tests check how much urine is left in your bladder once you urinate, what the urine pressure is, and if you have an infection or (in rare cases) cancer.

Treatment Of BPH

Treatment options of BPH include medication and surgery. Medications include alpha-1 blockers that relax the muscles of the bladder and prostrate, hormone reduction medicines that lower levels of testosterone and shrink the prostrate a little, as well as antibiotics if you get a bacterial infection due to BPH. But, the most important part of its treatment is self care.3 Here’s how you can go about it

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  • Stress can cause you to urinate frequently. So, exercise and meditate regularly.
  • Try and empty your bladder as much as you can when you go to the bathroom. This will help you take less trips to the bathroom.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine, especially after dinner. They increase the need for urination.
  • Spread fluids out throughout the day and don’t drink too much at once.
  • Over the counter medicines for cold and sinus with decongestants and antihistamines can aggravate the symptoms of BPH. So, avoid them as much as you can.
  • Try Kegel (pelvic strengthening) exercises.
  • Avoid drinking water 2 hours before going to sleep.

Don’t forget to tell your doctor about any medications that you’re on. They might need to be discontinued, or modified according to their effect on BPH.4

2. Prostatitis

Inflammation in the prostate gland causes prostatitis.

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Prostatitis is a painful condition that is caused by inflammation of the prostate gland or the area around it. There are 4 types of prostatitis, which are

  • Chronic prostatitis: The cause of this is not known, but it is believed that a microorganism may cause chronic prostatitis. It could also occur due to the chemicals in urine, the immune system’s response to a previous urinary tract infection, or nerve damage in the pelvic area. Psychological stress is believed to aggravate this condition.
  • Acute bacterial prostatitis: This is caused due to a bacterial infection of the prostate. This infection could happen when bacteria travels from the urethra into the prostate. Its onset is sudden, and the condition lasts for a very short time.
  • Chronic bacterial prostatitis: The cause of this is also bacterial infection, but it lasts for a long time, sometimes up to a few years.
  • Asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis: This causes inflammation of the prostrate without any symptoms. It is believed that it causes bacteria to be present in the urine. But, this condition doesn’t cause complications and doesn’t need specific treatment.

Prostatitis is extremely common in men under 50. And, each of the different types have their own set of symptoms.

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Symptoms of Prostatitis

  • Chronic prostatitis is accompanied by pain and discomfort lasting for 3 or more months in between the scrotum and anus, the central lower abdomen, the penis, the scrotum, and the lower back. It might also cause pain during ejaculation. Other symptoms include
    • Pain in the urethra or penis during or after urination.
    • Increased urinary frequency to eight or more times a day.
    • Inability to delay urination.
    • A weak or an interrupted urine stream.
  • Acute and chronic bacterial prostatitis have similar symptoms. The difference between them is how long they last. These symptoms are
    • Increased urinary frequency and urgency.
    • Fever and chills
    • Feeling of burning or pain during urination
    • Pain in the genital area, groin, lower abdomen, or lower back
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Urinary retention and trouble starting a urine stream
    • A urinary tract infection
    • Pain during ejaculation (more common in acute bacterial prostatitis)

Diagnosis for prostatitis includes a physical exam, medical test, and a run through of family history. These tests include semen analysis, Transrectal ultrasound, semen analysis, cystoscopy, urodynamic tests, blood tests, and urinalysis.

Treatment Of Prostatitis

Prostatitis treatment includes medications like muscle relaxers, NSAIDs, and antibiotics (to rule out bacterial infection). Alternative treatment options include

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  • Warm baths
  • Heat therapy with hot water bottles or heating pads
  • Kegel exercises
  • Myofascial release
  • Relaxation exercises
  • Phytotherapy with plant extracts
  • Acupuncture

In case of a bacterial infection, your doctor might advise you to lay off the alcohol and caffeine and increase your water intake. Be sure to visit a doctor if you’ve any of the symptoms of prostatitis.5

3. Prostate Cancer

Rare cases of enlarged prostate are due to cancer.

The symptoms of BPH and prostatitis are similar. This is why they’re often confused with prostate cancer. However, being diagnosed with BPH or prostatitis does not mean you have prostate cancer. And, often the screening for these two disorders will determine if you  do have cancer.

Those at risk of this form of cancer include men above the age of 50, men of African descent, and those who have a family history of this kind of cancer. Men whose diets are high in fat are also at risk of prostate cancer. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor about anything when you go in to get checked for an enlarged prostate.6

Does An Enlarged Prostate Cause Sexual Side Effects?

Considering the role it plays during intercourse, it is believed that an enlarged prostate affects sexual health. Although this link is not direct, recent research indicated that it might be a cause of erectile dysfunction(ED), a condition where a man can’t get or keep an erection for sex.7 Here’s how this could happen

  • Radiation treatment for prostate cancer might harm erectile tissues. About half of men who receive this treatment develop ED.
  • Hormone therapy and surgical techniques used to treat prostate cancer might also cause ED. Prostate cancer itself, in its final stages could spread to the nerves and arteries required for an erection.
  • Drugs used for BPH, especially antitestosterone drugs cause ED and diminished libido. Although alpha blockers might cause problems similar to ED (since they relax the muscles around the prostate), they are believed to have a lower risk of sexual side effects.
  • Painful ejaculation due to prostatitis can also affect sexual health.

Talk to your partner regarding the difficulties you’re facing in bed, if you suffer from BPH, prostatitis, or prostate cancer. With continued medication and self-care, you’re sure to beat all the complications that come with prostrate enlargement and lead a normal life again.

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