What is the prostate and why is it useful?
The prostate gland is the male sexual gland that lies just below the bladder and in front of the back passage. It is normally about the size of a chestnut and surrounds the tube known as the urethra through which urine flows from the bladder and out of the body.
Its role in life is to manufacture an important part of the fluid that mixes with sperm and allows it to move more freely, increasing chances of fertilisation. However, from the age of 45 or so it gradually increases in size and so can become a potential source of medical problems both harmless and serious.
What happens when the prostate enlarges?
Because the urethral passage from the bladder to the penis runs through the prostate gland, if the prostate enlarges, the urethra becomessqueezed and flow of urine starts to become obstructed.
This causes the classical and well-known signs of prostate enlargement. The larger the prostate the greater the risk of BPH occurring but men whose urine naturally tends to flow slowly may also be more likely to develop complications as they age.
The classical symptoms associated with BPH are:
- A weak stream of urine
- Straining to pass urine, and urination takes a long time.
- Stop/start urination where the urine appears to have finished and then re-starts again. This is known as hesitancy.
- Frequent trips to the toilet both in the day and through the night.
- An urgent need to pass urine, sometimes with a little leaking at the first sign of wanting to go.
- A gradual inability to pass water normally.
The impact of BPH
In my surgery I also see that suffering from BPH can lead to irritability, anxiety, loss of sex drive and can have a significant, negative impact on the quality of life of those men affected and their families too. If left untreated, BPH can unfortunately lead to an increased risk of serious and expensive long-term complications such as acute retention of urine, kidney and bladder conditions and hospitalisation.
However, there is good news here. Very effective treatments are available to relieve the symptoms of BPH including natural treatments in mild cases (such as saw palmetto), medication and, on occasions, surgery.
Many men with BPH suffer in silence, mistakenly believing that their symptoms are due to getting older and that nothing can be done for them.
I always urge men with symptoms of BPH to discuss these with their doctor as they need to know that urinary symptoms do not need to be a constant daily problem for them, and that they can get help to improve the quality of their day-to-day life.
If you feel that you, or someone you know, has symptoms suggestive of BPH then always get checked out – life may dramatically change for the better if you do!
Meet our guest blogger
Dr Roger Henderson is a senior partner in a busy general practice in Shropshire and his medical responsibilities also include teaching both medical students and GP registrars.
He sits on a number of health advisory boards both in the UK and globally.
To find out more about Dr Henderson visit http://www.doctorhenderson.co.uk/