SEX & WOMEN

What Is An Enlarged Prostate, And How To Cure It

  • WHAT IS AN ENLARGED PROSTATE?
    1 / 5 WHAT IS AN ENLARGED PROSTATE?

    Your prostate gland is located underneath your bladder and urethra. When you pee, your bladder pushes its contents into the prostate and then into the urethra, the tube through which urine exits your body.

    The opening within the prostate acts as a continence mechanism, says Dr. Ramin, so you only pee when you want to. Without your prostate, you’d likely be dealing with urine leaking out of the bladder and incontinence issues.

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  • WHAT ARE CAUSES OF AN ENLARGED PROSTATE?
    2 / 5 WHAT ARE CAUSES OF AN ENLARGED PROSTATE?

    Benign prostatic hyperplasia occurs mostly in older men—Enlarged prostate symptoms generally appear after age 40. In fact, BPH or enlarged prostate can affect about half of men ages 51 to 60, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

    Experts aren’t really sure what exactly causes an enlarged prostate, but because it occurs mainly in older men, they believe it may be due to hormone changes. For instance, as guys age, they tend to produce less testosterone, giving them a higher percentage of estrogen. It’s possible this can trigger prostate growth.

    It’s also possible that an accumulation of the hormone dihydrotestosterone or DHT, which can continue even after testosterone levels dip, can make your prostate cells continue to grow, the NIH says.

    Related: The Best Testosterone-Boosting Food For Men

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  • WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF AN ENLARGED PROSTATE?
    3 / 5 WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF AN ENLARGED PROSTATE?

    In many cases, that tubular opening of your prostate becomes tight and constricted when your gland enlarges. This leads to a restricted flow of urine. So, difficulty peeing is the most common sign of prostate problems, Dr. Ramin says.

    In 2017, the American Urological Association (AUA) created a seven-question symptom index for severity benign prostatic hyperplasia. How you answer them—options include “not at all,” “less than 1 time in 5,” “less than half the time,” “about half the time,” “more than half the time,” and “almost always”—can help your doctor evaluate you.

    The full questionnaire from the AUA is available here, but the symptoms include the following:

    1. The sensation of not emptying your bladder when you’re finished peeing

    2. The need to pee again less than two hours after you finished urinating

    3. Stopping and starting again several times when you urinated

    4. The difficulty to postpone urination

    5. Having a weak stream of urine

    6. The need to push or strain to start to pee

    7. Waking up often at night to pee

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  • WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU THINK YOU HAVE AN ENLARGED PROSTATE?
    4 / 5 WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU THINK YOU HAVE AN ENLARGED PROSTATE?

    An enlarged prostate means that the size of the gland has grown larger than normal—it’s not a cancerous growth, which is why its official name is benign prostatic hyperplasia. Still, enlarged prostate symptoms can mimic prostate cancer symptoms, so if you experience the signs below, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor. 

    Your physician may refer you to a urologist, but start with a checkup first, says Dr. Ramin. The earlier you seek medical attention, the better the outcome should be.

    “In some cases, symptoms may not necessarily correlate with the severity of the situation,” says Dr. Ramin. “Therefore, simple tests like a bladder and prostate ultrasound and urine flow study may reveal the true nature of the disease process.”

    Related: What It Means If You Feel A Lump On Your Balls

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  • WHAT ARE ENLARGED PROSTATE TREATMENTS?
    5 / 5 WHAT ARE ENLARGED PROSTATE TREATMENTS?

    There are a wide variety of strategies for getting that prostate gland back to normal, according to Dr. Ramin. In less severe cases, he notes, it may be enough to limit coffee, tea, and soda—caffeine can stimulate the bladder and increase urinary frequency, which might be putting stress on the prostate.

    In slightly more advanced situations, medications like alpha blockers—which relax muscles in your bladder and prostate to make peeing easier, and alpha reductase inhibitors, which can shrink prostate growth, may be needed.

    There are also minimally invasive treatment options like microwave therapy, Dr. Ramin says. In other cases, you may need to undergo resection of the prostate through laser therapy.

    For markedly enlarged prostates, patients may need a robotic subtotal prostatectomy procedure.

    “The best treatment option really depends on a particular patient’s symptoms and results of testing,” says Dr. Ramin. “Not every patient with enlarged prostate is created equal, and not every treatment option is a good option for all patients.”

    So talk to your doctor about what’s right for you. Just don’t ignore the issue: Untreated enlarged prostate can lead to issues like incontinence, blood in your urine—due to inflammation from straining to pee—and eventually, you’re at risk for kidney damage, says Dr. Ramin.

    By Elizabeth Millard

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