An introduction to the prostate gland
The ‘normal’ prostate in an adult male in his mid-twenties is slightly larger than a walnut, weighing approximately 11g (range 7 to 16g). It sits underneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra - the tube through which urine flows from the bladder when one urinates.
Men are usually unaware of the existence of the prostate as it lies deep in the pelvic area. However, the gland can be felt through the back passage and this is one of the ways in which a doctor might examine the prostate gland to assess its condition.
The prostate contains muscles, secretory glands and fibrous tissue.
Function of the prostate
The prostate produces small amounts of a fluid which is mixed with sperm when a man ejaculates. This fluid is produced by the secretory glands and is alkaline in nature.
The fluid benefits sperm by counteracting the acidic nature of the vagina - in doing so, sperm are able to move better, further and survive longer. This increases the chances of a man fertilising the egg in his partner.
So, in this way, the prostate is part of a man’s reproductive system. Cells of the prostate are influenced and regulated by the male hormones, in particular, the type of testosterone known as dihydro-testosterone (DHT).
The muscles of the prostate also help expel sperm when a man ejaculates.
The prostate is one of those parts of the body which lies silently and if all is well, a man would not even realise that it is around. However, the prostate can give rise to health problems. These are mainly:
- An enlarged prostate. As a man gets older, the prostate gradually enlarges. This gives rise to a number of bladder symptoms and the condition commonly known as an enlarged prostate, or Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)
- Prostate cancer. This is of course a serious problem. It is more common in older men but is unrelated to an enlarged prostate.
- Prostatitis. The prostate can become inflamed due to a number of reasons, including infection.
For more detailed information on these conditions, follow the link to our page on prostate problems.