The prostate gland is located between the bladder and the penis and is generally the size of a walnut. The prostate surrounds the neck of a man’s bladder and urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder). The prostate is part of the male reproductive system and the primary function is to secrete a slightly alkaline fluid that forms part of the seminal fluid, the fluid that carries sperm.
Below are details of three common prostate conditions, prostate enlargement, prostatitis, and prostate cancer. It is recommended that men over the age of 50 receive an annual prostate exam. If you have any questions about prostate health or to have your prostate checked contact Camelback Health Care at (602)368-5861.
Common Prostate Conditions
The prostate grows during a man’s life and can become enlarged later in life. This condition is referred to as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or benign prostatic hypertrophy. As the prostate enlarges, the layer of tissue surrounding it stops it from expanding, which causes the prostate to press against the urethra like a clamp. The bladder wall becomes thicker and irritable. The bladder begins to contract even when it contains small amounts of urine, causing more frequent urination. Eventually, the bladder weakens and loses the ability to empty itself. Urine remains in the bladder. The narrowing of the urethra and partial emptying of the bladder cause many of the problems associated with BPH.
On average 1 in 3 men over the age of 50 have some symptoms due to an enlarged prostate. As the prostate enlarges it may press on the urethra just below the bladder and cause symptoms.
Symptoms may include the following:
- A weak flow of urine is and it takes longer to empty the bladder.
- It may take a while for the flow of urine to start.
- Urine may continue to trickle out soon after finishing at the toilet.
- Urination more frequently than normal.
- There may be a feeling that the bladder is not quite empty.
Symptoms usually start out mild with perhaps a reduction in urine flow, or having to wait a few seconds to start passing urine. Over time these symptoms may become more troublesome and in some men symptoms may become quite severe and complications may develop.
Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate gland that is usually caused by a bacterial infection that has spread from another part of the body. Prostatitis can develop suddenly as with acute prostatitis, or gradually build up over an extended period of time as with chronic prostatitis.
Acute prostatitis develops suddenly and is generally caused by a bacterial infection of the prostate brought on by e coli, certain sexually transmitted diseases or sexual contact with an infected person, a urinary tract infection, urethritis, epididymitis, urethral instrumentation, trauma, bladder outlet obstruction, or an infection elsewhere in the body. Acute prostatitis is more common in men aged 20-35, men with multiple sex partners and men who engage in high-risk sexual behaviors.
Symptoms of acute prostatitis may include:
- Fever associated with lower abdominal discomfort or perineal pain
- Pain and/or burning with urination, ejaculation, or a bowel movement
- Urinary retention
- Blood in the urine and/or semen
- An increased need to urinate
- Testicle pain
Unlike acute prostatitis, chronic prostatitis develops gradually, continues for a prolonged period of time, and may have subtler symptoms. Chronic prostatitis will develop from an acute prostatitis bacterial infection that keeps recurring or from a urinary tract infection, urethritis, or epididymitis. Chronic prostatitis is more common in men aged 30 to 50 and is thought to also be associated to hormonal changes of aging and also certain lifestyle influences (excessive alcohol drinking, perineal injury, certain sexual practices).
Symptoms of chronic prostatitis include:
- Recurring urinary tract infections
- Lower back, perineal, pelvic floor, or testicular pain
- Pain and/or burning with urination, ejaculation, or with a bowel movement
- Blood in the urine
- Abnormal urine color
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men and a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age. Prostate cancer is most often found in men over the age of 50, and more than 75 percent of tumors are found in men over age 65. A family history of prostate cancer may also increase an individual’s risk of developing the disease.
There are no warning signs or symptoms of early prostate cancer. Once a malignant tumor causes the prostate gland to swell significantly, or once cancer spreads beyond the prostate, the following symptoms may be present:
- A frequent need to urinate, especially at night
- Difficulty starting or stopping a stream of urine
- A weak or interrupted urinary stream
- Leaking of urine when laughing or coughing
- Inability to urinate standing up
- A painful or burning sensation during urination or ejaculation
- Blood in urine or semen
These symptoms are caused by the cancer growth within the prostate and not symptoms of cancer. The best protection from prostate cancer is annual screenings and paying attention to the health or the prostate. The early the detection of prostate cancer the easier the cancer is to treat.