The prostate is a gland that sits underneath the male bladder, surrounding the urethra. As a man becomes older, the prostate can naturally begin to enlarge. Both the increasing pressure on the bladder and the 'squeezing' of the urethra can lead to urinary problems.
One of the first symptoms you might notice is that your partner has to get up at night to urinate – he wakes you up and you stay awake whilst he tumbles back into bed and sleeps soundly. You may also notice that he needs the toilet more frequently during the day, interrupting days out and travelling.
Before you bring up the issue, you may want to consult our Enlarged Prostate Symptom Check.
It may be embarassing to talk to him about, but if you notice these symptoms and think that an enlarged prostate is a possibility, encourage him to have the diagnosis confirmed by a doctor. Experience suggests that this may not be easy as men generally prefer to ignore their health problems.
A visit to the doctor should be a simple affair and in most cases, a diagnosis can be made from the history alone. Many cases of prostate enlargement can be easily treated, and if attended to early, the need for more inconvenient forms of treatment (such as surgery) may be avoided.
While the enlarged prostate and prostate cancer are quite different conditions, it is important to see a doctor to rule out this possibility. To exclude more serious conditions, a doctor may recommend an internal examination of the prostate gland (through the back passage) and blood tests.
Once the diagnosis is made, a decision on what to do next will need to be made. Treatment options for an enlarged prostate can range from ‘doing nothing’, to prescribed medicines and surgery. Each option will have its place and decisions will be made depending on the severity of symptoms and the potential for the treatment to lead to side effects. For more information, read our article on enlarged prostate treatment.
The use of Saw Palmetto to treat an enlarged prostate is gaining popularity in the UK. However, its use is well below the level seen in European countries such as Switzerland and Germany, where these medicines are routinely prescribed by doctors to treat the symptoms seen during the early stages of an enlarged prostate.
Saw Palmetto is a small shrub which grows mainly in Florida. The plant produces berries similar in shape and size to olives, rich in plant oil, including a specific compound known as β-sistosterol. It is the oil from the berries which is used medicinally to treat an enlarged prostate.
In the UK, the Department of Health has granted registrations (or licences) to Saw Palmetto products which have been manufactured to pharmaceutical standards, for the treatment of symptoms of an enlarged prostate.
Saw Palmetto may be used in the following ways:
- as an alternative to the ‘watchful waiting’ approach
- If the patient wishes to avoid the use of prescribed medication
- to help improve symptoms before surgery
- to help relieve symptoms that have returned after surgery
It should not be used if other types of prostate medication (α-blockers and 5-α-reductase inhibitors) are already being taken.
If your partner wishes to use Saw Palmetto, there is no requirement for him to speak to his doctor or pharmacist first. However, read the Patient-information-leaflet found inside each pack of licensed Saw Palmetto.
It is always good for your doctor to be aware of what you are doing. This can sometimes be difficult as not all doctors agree with, or are sympathetic to, the use of herbal remedies.
"Having been told by a consultant urologist some 30 years ago that I would at some stage require surgery, I am pleased to say that having used the saw palmetto capsules from that time he has (so far) been proved wrong!" James, UK
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