The prostate gland is located just below the neck of the bladder, close to the rectum. It produces about 30 percent of the fluid portion of semen. When the prostate becomes enlarged, it’s called benign prostatic hyperplasia. The normally small and pliable gland becomes enlarged and rigid. When it becomes enlarged, it can partially or entirely block the urethra, making urination difficult or impossible. The prostate enlarges normally as part of the aging process, starting in the late 40s. Four out of every five men between the ages of 50 and 60 have enlargement of the prostate.
SYMPTOMS OF AN ENLARGED PROSTATE
- frequent need to urinate
- difficulty urinating
- a decrease in the strength and force of the urine stream
- inability to sleep through the night without getting up to urinate
- dribbling at the end of urination
- a distended bladder which causes abdominal swelling
- complete inability to urinate
(Note: if you experience this symptom see your doctor immediately.)
If you suffer from the above symptoms, your doctor may perform a digital rectal exam. Because the prostate is so close to the rectum, he will insert a gloved finger into the rectum and feel the gland. Blood and urine tests and an ultrasound of the prostate gland and bladder may also be done to ensure that the enlarged prostate is non-cancerous. This is not a serious condition unless urination becomes extremely difficult or impossible and the bladder becomes infected.
The most common form of treatment for an enlarged prostate is oral medication. Surgery is also a successful method of treatment. However, in a small number of cases, sexual potency and control of urination are adversely affected. The most common surgical procedure at this time is transurethral prostate resection. A thin tube is inserted into the urethra until it reaches the prostate. Then an electric cutting device enters the prostate and removes small pieces of the enlarged prostate. In effect, a channel is cored out to allow the flow of urine. After surgery, prostate problems seldom recur.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If you have an enlarged prostate, avoid taking cold or allergy pills. These cause urinary retention that can further aggravate the problem.
If you’re over age 40, have a yearly digital rectal examination performed. This exam can detect and monitor an enlarged prostate.