What to look out for if you have BPH
There are a number of common symptoms linked to prostate problems that I see in my surgery, with the typical ones being;
- Fever and chills
- Painful or difficult urination
- Pain in the lower back or groin area
- Weakening of the urine stream or ‘stopping and starting’ when urinating
- A feeling of needing to get out of bed to pass urine regularly
- Having to hurry to the toilet to pass urine
It is important to point out that if any of these are present it does not necessarily mean there is anything seriously wrong, but does suggest that a doctor should assess you. There are three main problems linked to the prostate gland that make up the bulk of my prostate workload on a daily basis – prostatitis, BPH and prostate cancer.
Here there is infection of the prostate gland that can either be acute (one time only) or chronic (ongoing). Chronic prostatitis is usually more difficult to treat but for most men a course of antibiotics is necessary to treat this initially.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
This is a very common problem that increases the older men get, and around half of all men have an enlarged prostate by the age of 50 and about 9 out of 10 men have an enlarged prostate by the age of 90. The exact reasons why some men develop BPH and an enlarged prostate aren’t fully understood at present but there are two factors that affect your likelihood of developing BPH; your age and the level of hormones in your body. As you get older the level of hormones in your body change and this may affect your prostate gland.
If not treated, BPH can cause incontinence, bladder infections, and possible kidney damage and there are usually problems with passing water such as having to get up a number of times at night to go to the toilet, poor stream, and taking a long time to pass urine initially.
One of the difficulties I have as a GP is that it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate between the symptoms of BPH and the early signs and symptoms of prostate cancer, which is why early assessment – usually by an examination of the prostate gland and sometimes a simple blood test – is so important here. Unfortunately, men can be notoriously slow at coming forward to be checked out and will often think to get their car fixed long before they think about getting themselves assessed!
Fortunately, there are many treatments available for treating BPH ranging from simple supplements, to prescription medication and simple surgical treatments. It is not the case that BPH automatically leads on to prostate cancer as some men imagine, nor is it the case that the older you are, the less likely treatment will work – men of any age can be successfully treated for their BPH.
Rather than considering the more common problem of BPH, men with prostate symptoms are often far more concerned about the possibility of them having prostate cancer, now the commonest male cancer in the UK.
If not treated, the cancer can spread throughout the body but the good news is that if detected early, chances for a complete recovery are good. Symptoms are often similar to those of BPH so it is always worth getting checked out by your doctor to rule out prostate cancer, using the same type of examination and simple blood test (called the PSA test) as with BPH.
If your GP feels that prostate cancer remains a possibility they will refer you to a specialist for further tests such as a prostate biopsy, urine flow tests and scans.
Remember – if in doubt, always get checked out!
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/