The prostate is a walnut-sized gland surrounding the neck of the bladder in men and secretes a fluid that is a component of semen that nourishes and protects sperm.
The urethra is the duct that conveys urine from the bladder, through the penis and out of the body. The urethra runs through the centre of the prostate.
What is an enlarged prostate?
An enlarged prostate simply means that the prostate gland has grown bigger and can subsequently cause problems with urination (benign prostate hyperplasia or BPH).
Nobody knows for sure what causes an enlarged prostate.
It is known, however, that it is linked to age and the presence of testicles. Men who have had their testicles removed at an early age (for example due to testicular cancer) do not get BPH. Similarly, men who have their testicles removed after being diagnosed with an enlarged prostate experience a decrease in prostate size.
A prostate can start enlarging in men at approximately 30 years of age. An estimated 50% of men have histologic (under the microscope) evidence of BPH by age 50 and 75% by age 80; in 40–50% of these men, BPH becomes clinically significant.
BPH is not cancer, nor does it raise your risk of getting prostate cancer; therefore the word 'benign' in the name of the condition.
Symptoms of an enlarged prostate
Symptoms occur because the prostate starts to squash the urethra and blocks urinary flow.
Less than half of all men with an enlarged prostate will experience symptoms:
- Difficulty initiating urinary flow
- Straining to go and leakage after voiding (the dreaded dribble)
- Inability to completely empty the bladder
- Needing to urinate at least twice overnight
- A weak urine flow
There are a number of tests for an enlarged prostate, most of which can be performed by your doctor.
If you think you may have an enlarged prostate it is important to see your GP as soon as possible as the symptoms for an enlarged prostate are similar to those of prostate cancer, which can be life threatening.
Article compiled by Dr MM Herbst, MBChB (Stell)
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