We may hide the truth about our growing waistlines as we age, but when it comes to one body part, the expanding facts are undeniable, and it can be serious.
Enlarged prostate, or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), is a common condition among men as they age. Half of all men by the age of 60 and as many as 90 percent in their 80s experience signs of BPH. But its prevalence doesn’t diminish its effects on lifestyle, which at the minimum cause discomfort. At its worse, an enlarged prostate could contribute to other conditions including bladder infections.
But do you know the warning signs and whether treatment is necessary? Here are eight essential facts, and one myth, about BPH.
- It grows, and grows, on you. The prostate gland, located in the reproductive system below the bladder and surrounding the urethra, goes through two growth periods. The first is in early puberty and the second starts at around age 25– but it doesn’t stop. As it enlarges, the gland becomes restricted by the tissue surrounding it, causing it to press against the urethra.
- It tends to stall things. The most common symptoms of enlarged prostate involve changes and problems with urination. These include higher frequency of urination (especially at night), difficulty starting to pee and an interrupted or weak stream, leakage and an inability to completely empty the bladder. A less common symptom is blood in the urine.
- Its manliness is unclear. The male hormones testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) may contribute to an enlarged prostate, in that DHT promotes the growth of prostate cells and some experts believe DHT levels rise as men age. However, these causes are still being examined. Also, increased levels of the female hormone estrogen, in men called estradiol, can cause an enlarged prostate.
- Detection can be, but isn’t always, behind you. Yes, the most common test for detecting an enlarged prostate is a digital exam (when the physician inserts a finger into the rectum and feels the prostate). However, there are other common procedures. The urine flow test, for example, just requires peeing into a special device that measures the strength and volume of the flow.
- It can be infectious, and rocky. An enlarged prostate may cause urinary tract infections, so a physician is likely to prescribe antibiotics to clear it up before beginning any treatments. Symptoms also could progress into bladder stones–so don’t put it off!
- It can bring the force within you. In addition to medicinal treatments that relax the prostate and bladder muscles (improving urine flow), several incision-free laser procedures are available. In a HoLEP (holmium laser enucleation of the prostate), a laser removes the portion of the prostate gland obstructing urine flow. Or the doctor can perform a transurethral vaporization, through which an electrode is passed through the urethra and eliminates the tissue.
- A lift can help. In some cases, laser procedures won’t be enough to remove all the tissue, but there is an alternative to surgery. The UroLift System involves small implants that lift and hold the prostate lobes apart, kind of like the tie-backs on curtains, relieving pressure on the urethra. You can learn more about the procedure here.
- It’s occurring to a friend near you. Enlarged prostates are so common, it’s likely you have friends or family members who are experiencing similar symptoms. By talking openly about your health with those you trust, it’s easier to take the step to seeing a doctor. You might also be the catalyst who encourages a friend to get checked.
The myth “ Size matters. No, it doesn’t! This is the biggest myth about an enlarged prostate. Big symptoms may indicate a small enlargement, and vice versa. The severity of the signs simply do not always correlate with size.
Also, while the symptoms suggest an enlarged prostate, they also might indicate other conditions that require further examination. Signs of an enlarged prostate, for example, can be similar to those of prostate cancer. Call a physician and put it behind you. You can learn more here.