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Not every man will have to deal with age-related issues like balding or weight gain. Whether you have these problems really depends on your health, and luck. But one problem just about every man will have to face, if he lives long enough, is an enlarged prostate. Let's talk about an enlarged prostate, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH.
The prostate gland is part of your reproductive system, and its job is to add fluid to the sperm before ejaculation. The prostate is pretty small when you're young, but as you get older it grows and grows. Keep in mind, this growth isn't cancerous. But by design, the prostate is wrapped around the urethra, the tube that carries urine from your bladder out of your body. So as the prostate grows, it can begin to squeeze or pinch the urethra which often can make it harder for men with an enlarged prostate to urinate.
If you have an enlarged prostate, the first notice that you're having trouble urinating. Instead of having a strong even flow, the urine only dribbles out like a leaky faucet; drip, drip, dribble, drip. Because you're not emptying your bladder fully each time, you keep feeling the urge to use the bathroom, even in the middle of the night. To check your prostate, your doctor or urologist will check your prostate gland by inserting a lubricated, gloved finger and feeling for any growth. Other tests may check your urine flow, and how much urine is left in your bladder after you go, as well as look for signs of an infection or prostate cancer.
How is an enlarged prostate treated?
Treatment often depends on how you feel. If you're not having any symptoms, your doctor may suggest just watching it, that's called "watchful waiting." If you've got bothersome symptoms, medications can reduce the size of the prostate gland, and relax your bladder and prostate so you don't constantly feel the urge to go. For more serious symptoms, surgery can remove the extra prostate tissue. To help relieve the symptoms of an enlarged prostate, watch how much fluid you drink, especially before bedtime, or before going out. Minimize alcohol and caffeine, as well as over-the-counter decongestants and antihistamines. They can make your symptoms worse. Double voiding can help. After you've emptied your bladder, wait a moment and try to go again without straining or pushing.
Some people take herbs like saw palmetto for an enlarged prostate. Although there's some evidence that these herbs can relieve BPH symptoms, many studies haven't found a benefit. Talk to your doctor before taking any herbal remedy, because they can cause side effects. Prostate enlargement isn't usually serious, but it can have a serious impact on your way of life, especially when you're always going to the bathroom. Remember that BPH is treatable. Work with your doctor to find the treatment that works best for you. If you've been caring for your symptoms for 2 months and not finding any relief, or you're having more serious symptoms like you're not urinating at all, or you have a fever or pain in your back or abdomen, call your doctor as soon as possible.
- Last reviewed on 2/26/2016
- Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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