Part of the male reproductive system, the prostate makes most of the essential fluid in the semen. This walnut-shaped gland has two or more sections, or lobes, surrounded by an outer layer of tissue and is in front of the rectum, just under the bladder. It surrounds the urethra at the neck of the bladder, where the urethra joins the bladder. The urethra carries both urine and semen out through the penis.
Prostate glands gradually increase in size with age. If they get too large they can interfere in proper drainage of urine, which is common in men after the age of 50, and more likely as the aging process continues.
Prostatitis, or inflammation of the prostate, is the most common prostate-related problem in men under 50. For men over the age of 50 it is prostate enlargement, also known as Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia. Prostate cancer is another health concern for men over 50, although it can occur earlier if there is a strong family history of the disease.
Prostatitis is not contagious and the symptoms are similar to those of benign prostatic hyperplasia or urethritis (inflammation of urethra).
There are three types of prostatitis, or inflammation of the prostate:
- Acute infectious prostatitis
This comes on suddenly and the symptoms may be severe and include painful and frequent urination, a decreasing urinary stream and urinary retention, fever and chills and low back pain. It can be caused by a virus or bacteria.
- Chronic infectious prostatitis
This is a longer-lasting form of prostatitis and can be caused by bacteria, and worsened by nicotine, caffeine, stress and alcohol. Symptoms can include frequent urination, pain in the low back or lower abdomen and recurring bladder infections.
- Non-infectious prostatitis
This is the most common form of prostatitis. As it is not caused by a bacteria, antibiotics will be of no effect. The symptoms may be worsened by irregular sexual activity since infrequent ejaculation can cause the ducts to become blocked, and by stress, which cause the pelvis muscles to tighten and become painful. Increased pressure during urination can cause urine to back up into the ducts, leading to a form of chemical prostatitis.
What causes prostatitis?
Prostatitis is sometimes caused by bacteria, but there are other possible causes. You will need to visit a urologist to confirm whether you have prostatitis and to rule out other causes of urinary symptoms, such as kidney stones.
How is prostatitis treated?
If your prostatitis is caused by bacteria, then your doctor can prescribe an antibiotic to help fight the infection. If you have recurring infections, there might be a defect in your prostate that allows bacteria to grow. This defect can normally be corrected surgically.
If you have non-bacterial prostatitis, you might be given a drug to relax the prostate’s muscle tissue. Your doctor might also advise you to take warm baths or make dietary changes.
Benign Prostate Hyperplasia (BHP)
BHP refers to a situation where your prostate is enlarged but not cancerous. It is also known by the names Benign Prostatic Obstruction or Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy. When the prostate grows larger, it presses against the urethra and pinches it. The bladder wall also becomes thicker and eventually, the bladder can weaken and lose the ability to be fully emptied. This urinary retention, together with the narrowing of the urethra, are responsible for many of the symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia.
What are the symptoms of BPH?
Symptoms of BPH include
- An urge to urinate even though you have just finished
- An urgent and frequent need to urinate
- trouble beginning to urinate
- a weak urine stream
- small amounts of blood in your urine
What causes BPH?
While the causes of benign prostatic hyperplasia are not clear-cut, it is age-related. Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia affects about half of all men between the ages of 51 and 60 and up to 90% of men over the age of 80.
How is BPH treated?
If your symptoms don’t bother you too much, you could just continue to have regular check-ups to ensure the condition is not worsening. However, if the condition is more serious, you might be given medication to relax or shrink the prostate. Another option is the surgical removal of part of the prostate.
Can I ignore my BPH symptoms?
Painful or frequent urination, particularly when it is accompanied by blood in the urine, can be a sign of bladder cancer, so it is important to go to a doctor to rule out his possibility
When should I see a doctor for urinary symptoms?
Common signs to watch for are a weak or interrupted urine flow, difficulty in passing urine, urgency or frequency, pain during urination or ejaculation, or having to get up during the night to urinate.
What steps can I take to help prevent prostate problems?
The following factors appear to contribute to keeping your prostate healthy: reduced intake of meat, dairy sugar and starch; moderate exercise; and regular ejaculation.