The prostate usually goes unnoticed, but when it becomes enlarged, several problems may arise. Symptoms that result can be categorised as either 'irritative' or 'obstructive'.
'Irritative symptoms' come about because the enlarged prostate presses against the bladder, leading to irritation.
'Obstructive symptoms' are caused by the enlarged prostate squeezing the urethra (the tube in which urine travels out of the bladder). interrupting the normal flow of urine.
As the prostate enlarges, it presses against and puts pressure on the base or bottom of the bladder. This has the effect of ‘irritating’ the bladder, giving rise to what doctors call ‘irritative symptoms’. This pressure sends signals to your brain, fooling you into thinking your bladder is ‘full’ when it really isn’t.
This is the reason that men with an enlarged prostate feel:
Lastly, men with an enlarged prostate may also experience loss of libido or sexual function. The precise reasons for this are still to be fully explained, but it is thought that pressure, and irritation of the bladder and surrounding structures, could play a part. What is interesting is that when symptoms of prostate enlargement improve, so can sexual function.
An enlarged prostate can also ‘squeeze’ the urethra, making it more difficult for urine to flow out of the bladder. This gives rise to ‘obstructive symptoms’. This effect is similar to having a blockage in your garden hose. Obstructive symptoms of an enlarged prostate are:
- Poor urine stream
- Weak urine stream
- Difficulty getting started when needing to urinate
- Stopping and starting rather than having a steady stream
- Dribbling at the end of urination.
If you think you have symptoms of an enlarged prostate, the first thing you should do is to get the diagnosis confirmed by your doctor. One of the most important reasons is to exclude the possibility of prostate cancer which may give the same symptoms.
Either before or after a diagnosis is made, you should seek your doctor’s opinion if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Pain on urination. This usually points to a bladder infection
- Blood in your urine. Although an enlarged prostate can sometimes be the cause of blood in the urine, other (more serious) causes should be ruled out urgently
- Unexplained fever
- Stop passing water completely.
If you are under 40 it is unlikely that you will suffer from an enlarged prostate, even if you experience some of the symptoms described on this page. Should you experience these symptoms, you should consult your doctor in order to determine what is causing them.
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