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What You need to know about Prostate Problems

Understanding Prostate Problems

What is the prostate?

The prostate is part of a man’s sex organs. It’s about the size of a walnut and surrounds the tube called the urethra, located just below the bladder.

The urethra has two jobs: to carry urine from the bladder when you urinate and to carry semen during a sexual climax, or ejaculation. Semen is a combination of sperm plus fluid that the prostate adds.

What are prostate problems?

For men under 50, the most common prostate problem is prostatitis.

For men over 50, the most common prostate problem is prostate enlargement. This condition is also called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Older men are at risk for prostate cancer as well, but this disease is much less common than BPH. More information about prostate cancer is available from the National Cancer Institute.

What is prostatitis?

Prostatitis means the prostate might be inflamed or irritated. If you have prostatitis, you may have a burning feeling when you urinate, or you may have to urinate more often. Or you may have a fever or just feel tired.

Inflammation in any part of the body is usually a sign that the body is fighting germs or repairing an injury. Some kinds of prostatitis are caused by bacteria, tiny organisms that can cause infection or disease. If you have bacterial prostatitis, your doctor can look through a microscope and find bacteria in a sample of your urine. Your doctor can then give you an antibiotic, a medicine that kills bacteria.

Most of the time, doctors don’t find any bacteria in men with prostatitis. If you have urinary problems, the doctor will look for other possible causes, such as a kidney stone or cancer.

If no other causes are found, the doctor may decide you have a condition called nonbacterial prostatitis.

You may have to work with your doctor to find a treatment that’s right for you. Changing your diet or taking warm baths may help. Your doctor may give you a medicine called an alpha-blocker to relax the muscle tissue in the prostate. No single solution works for everyone with this condition.

What is prostate enlargement, or BPH?

If you’re a man over 50 and have started having problems urinating, the reason could be an enlarged prostate, or BPH. As men get older, their prostate keeps growing. As it grows, it squeezes the urethra. Since urine travels from the bladder through the urethra, the pressure from the enlarged prostate may affect bladder control.

If you have BPH, you may have one or more of these problems:

  • A frequent and urgent need to urinate. You may get up several times a night to go to the bathroom.
  • Trouble starting a urine stream. Even though you feel you have to rush to get to the bathroom, you find it hard to start urinating.
  • A weak stream of urine
  • A small amount of urine each time you go
  • The feeling that you still have to go, even when you have just finished urinating
  • Leaking or dribbling urine
  • Small amounts of blood in your urine

Is BPH a sign of cancer?

No. It’s true that some men with prostate cancer also have BPH, but that doesn’t mean that the two conditions are always linked. Most men with BPH don’t develop prostate cancer. However, because the early symptoms are the same for both conditions, you should see a doctor to evaluate these symptoms.

Is BPH a serious disease?

By itself, BPH is not a serious condition, unless the symptoms are so bothersome that you can’t enjoy life. But BPH can lead to serious problems. One problem is urinary tract infections.

If you can’t urinate at all, you should get medical help right away. Sometimes this happens suddenly to men after they take an over-the-counter cold or allergy medicine.

In rare cases, BPH and its constant urination problems can lead to kidney damage.

Content Created/Medically Reviewed by our Expert Doctors
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