Prostate problems are very common; unfortunately, most men will experience issues in their lifetime. If you find yourself unsure of what the prostate is, don't be embarrassed - you are not alone. Let us explain the prostate and some things to watch for to ensure you are healthy.
What is the Prostate, and What Does it Do?
Only males have a prostate. The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that lays inside the pelvic area in between the bladder and penis. The urethra (the tube that transports both urine and seme) runs right through the prostate from the bladeer and out the penis. Because of the location, it is almost guaranteed that problems will arise if anything goes awry with this gland. Therefore, prostate issues are very common.
Not only does the prostate aid in urinating, but it's also vital in reproduction. The prostate is responsible for squeezing an important fluid into the urethra that protects the sperm when men ejaculate.
Prostate Common Issues
Because the prostate helps the functions of both urination and ejaculation, these are likely the first two areas in which you may notice symptoms that something is not quite right. Common issues include:
Inflammation of the prostate is commonly caused by infection. There are two types; acute and chronic. Acute is more common. It is typically caused by an infection and treated with antibiotics. Symptoms may include:
- Pain, which may be severe, in or around your penis, testicles, anus, lower abdomen, or lower back
- Discomfort passing bowel movements
- Pain when urinating
- Feeling the need to urinate frequently (particularly at night)
- Problems starting or "stop-start" peeing
- Urgent need to urinate
- Chronic prostatitis is less common, characterized by chronic pelvic pain, and can be caused by chronic inflammation
Also called Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) affects almost all men over 50. Most cases will be asymptomatic. Symptoms typically include changes in urination because the enlarged gland may constrict the urethra. This may include more difficulty starting the stream of urine, noticing a weaker stream of urine, a sensation of incomplete emptying of the bladder, leakage of urine, or getting up frequently overnight to urinate. There are medications available that can help alleviate these symptoms. When medications do not provide enough benefit, procedures may be performed to open up the flow of urine.
Most men with prostate cancer have no symptoms. However, some may have the symptoms mentioned above along with blood in urine or semen. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men (second to skin cancer) and is highly treatable when caught early. If you have symptoms or concerns, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible to get tested and diagnosed early. If you are concerned about your prostate, have symptoms, and as part of your routine annual physical, a PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood test is often checked. This test is elevated in prostate cancer but can also be elevated simply due to an enlarged prostate. Your family doctor will refer you to a urologist to determine the next steps needed if the results are concerning.
Don't be Afraid to Talk to Your Doctor
Your doctor knows you, and they know the prostate. It's not embarrassing to discuss prostate health issues with your physician. If you are experiencing any issues, now is the time to discuss it with your doctor. Why feel discomfort when help is available?