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Enlarged Prostate

A male’s prostate is a small gland located in the pelvis between the penis and the bladder. The cause of enlarged prostate is not fully understood, but scientists believe it is linked to changes in a male’s hormonal levels with age. 

Benign prostate enlargement (BPE) is common in men over the age of 50. It is not an indication of an increased risk of developing prostate cancer. That risk is the same for men with and without enlarged prostate. 

However, when the prostate becomes enlarged, it can pressure the bladder and urethra (the tube through which the urine passes).

Enlarged Prostate

Enlarged prostate can affect the peeing process and may cause:

  • Difficulty in starting to pee
  • Difficulty fully emptying the bladder
  • A need to pee frequently

Most of the time, a mildly enlarged prostate needs no immediate treatment, just regular check-ups.

Your provider might advise you to make some lifestyle changes such as:

  • Drinking less alcohol, fizzy drinks, and caffeine
  • Drinking less in the evening to avoid having to get up to urinate
  • Limiting your intake of artificial sweeteners
  • Exercising regularly

Sometimes benign prostate enlargement can lead to complications such as a urinary tract infection (UTI) or acute urinary retention (AUR), the sudden inability to pass any urine. Seek immediate medical attention in the event of AUR.

Symptoms of AUR Include:

  • Suddenly not being able to pee at all
  • Swelling of the bladder that you can feel with your hands
  • Severe lower tummy pain

Conditions that Affect the Prostate Include:

  • Prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate, often caused by infection and typically treated with antibiotics, other medications, and/or surgery
  • Enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hypertrophy or BPH) affects all men over 50 and can impede normal urine flow. Typically medicines resolve symptoms, but sometimes surgery is necessary to address symptoms and avoid further complications from BPH.
  • Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men (besides skin cancer). Surgery, radiation, hormone therapies, cryotherapy, or chemotherapy are all options for treating this cancer. Some men choose to delay treatment, as prostate cancer is typically very slow-growing and often not the cause of death in older men. This option is called watchful waiting and requires regularly scheduled follow-up testing.

Prostate Tests 

Prostate tests include: 

  • Digital rectal examination (DRE) involves feeling the prostate with a gloved finger in the rectum to detect an enlarged prostate, lumps, or nodules.
  • Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) involves a blood test to measure a protein made by the prostate. 

If PSA is high, prostate cancer is more likely, but not definitive, as an enlarged prostate can also cause an elevated PSA. Screening recommendations based on age differ among medical experts. Talk with your provider as to whether screening makes sense for you.

  • Prostate ultrasound (transrectal ultrasound) involves inserting a probe in the rectum to bring it close to the prostate for imaging.

Ultrasound is often done with a biopsy to test for prostate cancer.

  • A prostate biopsy involves inserting a needle into the prostate to take tissue samples for testing.

Enlarged Prostate Treatment

The treatment of moderate to severe symptoms may include medication to reduce the size of the prostate and relax your bladder. Surgery is usually only recommended for symptoms that have not responded to medicine.

If you are concerned about symptoms of an enlarged prostate, call Catawba Valley Healthcare today for an evaluation at (828) 695-5900.