Is an enlarged prostate dangerous? Well, the good news is that having an enlarged prostate doesn’t mean you have cancer; but that’s not to say it doesn’t have its dangers. This post explains all you need to know about an enlarged prostate, its symptoms and treatment.
What is an enlarged prostate?
First things first, what exactly is an enlarged prostate? The prostate is a small gland about the size of a walnut that sits just below the bladder and encompasses part of the urethra – the tube that removes urine from the body. As men age, it's not uncommon for the prostate to undergo some changes. One of the most common is benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which simply means the prostate has grown larger but is not cancerous.
An enlarged prostate is extremely common in men over 50. In fact, by the age of 60, 50% of all men will have an enlarged prostate and this percentage reaches 90% in men of 85 and over.
Is an enlarged prostate dangerous?
The short answer is no! An enlarged prostate itself is not dangerous and is a natural part of aging for many men. However, the symptoms can be bothersome and may affect your quality of life.
An enlarged prostate places pressure on the bladder and the urethra (the tube that dispels urine out of the body). This can affect the passing of urine leading to lower urinary tract symptoms which may include the following:
- Frequent Urination: The need to urinate eight or more times a day.
- An Urgent Need to Urinate: Not being able to postpone urination.
- Difficulty Initiating Urination: Challenges in commencing a urine stream.
- Interrupted or Weak Urine Stream: A stream of urine that is either weak or gets interrupted.
- Dribbling at the End of Urination: Experiencing leakage or dribbling after completing urination.
- Nocturia: Frequent urination episodes during periods of sleep.
- Urinary Retention: Difficulty emptying the bladder completely.
- Urinary Incontinence: Accidental loss of urine.
- Discomfort After Ejaculation or During Urination: Pain experienced after ejaculation or during the urination process.
- Unusual Color or Odor of Urine: Noticeable changes in the color or smell of urine.
These symptoms of BPH are often caused by a blocked urethra and/or the bladder having to work harder to pass the urine through the blockage.
Patients often ask “What size of prostate is dangerous?” In truth, the size of the prostate doesn’t necessarily determine the severity of the symptoms or blockage. Some men whose prostates are hugely enlarged suffer few symptoms and little blockage whereas others with a minimally enlarged prostate have more symptoms and a greater blockage. Less than fifty percent of men with BPH have lower urinary tract symptoms.
What happens if an enlarged prostate is left untreated?
If left untreated, complications can arise and you could develop serious conditions requiring medical intervention. These include:
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Complete blockage of the urethra
- Bladder infections and bladder stones
- Kidney damage
These conditions can prevent you from being able to urinate, causing pain in the lower abdomen or lower back. You could also suffer from frequent, painful and urgent need to urinate accompanied by fever and chills, or blood in the urine. If you experience any of these benign prostatic hyperplasia symptoms, you must visit your doctor at once.
How is BPH treated?
Treatment for an enlarged prostate depends on the severity of the symptoms, how much they interfere with daily life, and a man’s preferences. A mildly enlarged prostate may not need any treatment. Instead, a urologist may recommend regular check-ups to monitor its progress. If the symptoms start impacting daily life or present a health risk, treatment will be recommended.
BPH treatments include:
Lifestyle Changes - Making simple changes like reducing the intake of liquids before going out or going to bed, lowering caffeine and alcohol consumption, and practicing Kegel exercises can all make a significant difference.
Medications - There are various medications available that can help alleviate symptoms and improve urine flow. Your doctor can help determine which one is right for you.
Surgery - In more severe cases, when other treatments aren't effective, surgical options may be considered. But it's essential to note that surgery is usually a last resort.
What is the best treatment for an enlarged prostate?
If you can’t undergo surgery or you’re keen to explore an alternative, then prostate artery embolization (PAE) could be right for you. It’s a minimally invasive procedure, performed on an outpatient basis, that improves lower urinary tract symptoms resulting from BPH. The procedure is carried out by an IR (interventional radiologist) using X-rays and other imaging techniques to view the inside of the body and treat conditions without surgery.
Here's a breakdown of the procedure:
Step #1 – A small opening is created in the wrist or groin, and a slender catheter is guided into the artery that delivers blood to the prostate.
Step #2 – Harmless micro-particles, called microspheres, are injected into the catheter. These microspheres function to reduce the blood supply to the prostate.
Step #3 – The same steps are then replicated on the opposite side.
The prostate starts to shrink 24-48 hours after the procedure, but you’re most likely to notice a difference within one to two months. The prostate can reduce in size by up to 40% within six months.
In conclusion, having an enlarged prostate is a common and usually non-threatening part of getting older. While the symptoms might be bothersome, there are effective ways to manage them. The key is to be aware of your body, pay attention to any changes, and, most importantly, consult with your healthcare provider if you have concerns. Remember, you're not alone in this – many men go through the same experiences, and help is available to ensure you maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.
If you’re suffering from the symptoms of BHP and would like to know more about PAE then why not schedule a consultation with the friendly, experienced team at MINT to see how we can help?