You’ve most likely heard the term ‘enlarged prostate’, but what does that mean, exactly? A humongous swelling in your nether regions might pop into your mind, but that’s not a tell-tale sign that you may have problems with your prostate. This article discusses how to recognise enlarged prostate symptoms (medically known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH for short) and what action to take if you think your gland has grown in size.
What is an enlarged prostate?
Simply put, an enlarged prostate is when a man’s reproductive gland has grown bigger. Your prostate gland sits just beneath your bladder and urethra. Imagine it like a gatekeeper during bathroom time. When you pee, the bladder sends its contents through the prostate and into the urethra, the tube that lets urine leave your body.
In essence, the prostate's opening works like a control switch for peeing, making sure you only go when you decide to. If you didn't have your prostate, you might have to manage unexpected leaks from the bladder and deal with incontinence problems.
What causes an enlarged prostate?
While nobody knows for sure what causes an enlarged prostate, what we can tell you with certainty is that the condition affects millions of men as they get older. Enlarged prostate symptoms tend to make an appearance after a man has reached his forties. In fact, around 50% of men between the ages of 51 and 60 are affected by benign prostatic hyperplasia and this figure increases to 90% for men over 80.
Since it’s mostly older men who are affected by BPH, experts think the condition could be linked to aging and hormonal changes. Because testosterone levels drop as a man ages, it results in a higher percentage of estrogen, and it’s thought that this could be the factor that triggers prostate growth. This theory is backed by the fact that younger men who have had their testicles removed (possibly due to testicular cancer) never develop BPH. Furthermore, the National Institute of Health (NIH) suggests that the ongoing accumulation of the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT), even when testosterone levels decrease, may contribute to the continuous growth of prostate cells.
How to recognise the signs of an enlarged prostate
For most men, difficulty urinating is the most common sign of prostate problems. As the gland enlarges, the tubular opening of the prostate tightens and narrows, limiting the flow of urine.
According to a questionnaire compiled by the American Urological Association (AUA) in 2017, seven other enlarged prostate symptoms include:
- Feeling like your bladder isn't completely empty after you've finished urinating.
- Needing to urinate again within two hours of your last bathroom trip.
- Experiencing a start-and-stop pattern during urination.
- Finding it challenging to delay the urge to urinate.
- Having a weak flow of urine.
- Feeling the need to exert extra effort or strain to initiate urination.
- Frequently waking up during the night to urinate.
What should you do if you think you have an enlarged prostate?
While an enlarged prostate means the gland has grown bigger than normal, the good news is that we’re not talking about a cancerous growth – hence the medical term ‘benign prostatic hyperplasia. However, because some of the symptoms of an enlarged prostate mimic those of prostate cancer, it’s a good idea to schedule a check-up with your doctor.
The degree of prostate enlargement doesn’t always correlate with the severity of the condition so your doctor is likely to recommend you undergo a test for urine flow and prostate and bladder ultrasounds to determine the nature of the disease process.
What are treatments for BPH?
According to the severity of your condition, there are a wide variety of strategies to get the prostate back to normal. In relatively mild situations, limiting your consumption of coffee, tea, and soda may be all that’s needed. That’s because caffeine can increase the frequency of urination by stimulating the bladder, which, in turn, could be placing the prostate under stress. Here are some other surprising sources of caffeine.
In other situations, treatments for an enlarged process include:
Medications, such as
- Alpha-Blockers which relax the muscles in the bladder and prostate making it easier to pass urine.
- Alpha Reductase Inhibitors which block the hormones causing your protate to grow, and in some cases even shrink it.
- Transurethral Resection of the Prostate (TURP) – a surgical procedure that removes some of the prostate tissue
- Aquablation – shrinkage of the prostate using a heat-free waterjet
- Rezum water vapour therapy – A steam-induced treatment that removes excess prostatic tissue
- UroLift – Tiny implants designed to hold the prostatic urethra open and clear any obstruction
- Prostate Artery Embolization (PAE) - Inserting micro-particles via a catheter into the prostate artery to reduce any blood supply to the prostate, thus shrinking it over time.
The best treatment option for any patient depends on the severity of their symptoms and test results, so talk to your doctor to help decide what’s right for you.
Without treatment an enlarged prostate can lead to incontinence, blood in the urine and in the longer term, potential kidney damage.
If you have any of the enlarged prostate symptoms mentioned above, why not schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified Vascular and Interventional Radiologists at MINT. We provide prostate artery embolization (PAE) – a minimally invasive out-patient treatment that is quick, virtually pain-free and provides long-lasting treatment outcomes. Call us today or use our online booking system.