For most men passing the age of forty-five is not only a sign of the dreaded ‘middle’ age but is also the point at which they might well expect to see the arrival of prostate problems at any day. Enlargement of the prostate (also referred to as benign prostatic hypertrophy, or BPH) is a normal part of the ageing process and, as its name suggests, it is not a life-threatening condition.
In the vast majority of cases the symptoms of an enlarged prostate will be relatively mild and, although most men are aware of them, they simply choose to live with them as something of a nuisance and merely a sign of getting old. In some cases however symptoms can be become more than a simple nuisance and then you will need to consult your physician and seek one of the many different treatments available today.
The prostate gland, which is an important part of the male reproductive system, partly surrounds the urethra, which is the tube that caries urine out of the body from the bladder. This means that, as the prostate grows it will start to press on the urethra gradually narrowing it and interfering with the normal flow of urine. It is here therefore that the first signs of a problem usually become evident.
It is common for example to begin to experience difficulty in starting the flow of urine and this will be seen as a need to strain in order to start passing water. Once the flow of urine does start it may be weak and tend to stop and start. You may well also experience a dribbling or urine after you have finished and will often feel that you have not emptied your bladder.
It is also very common for people with an enlarged prostate to visit the bathroom more frequently and often with a sense of urgency, feeling that you can no longer ‘hold on’ as you used to do. Many men also find that they increasingly have to get up during the night to visit the bathroom.
Interference with the process of emptying the bladder can also lead in some men to an increased risk of urinary track infection and this is often felt as a burning sensation when urinating. In these cases you should always seek treatment from your physician or an urologist.
But should you consult your doctor when the symptoms of an enlarged prostate start to appear or, since it is simply a part of the normal ageing process, ignore it unless it becomes too much of a nuisance?
The simple answer is that you should always consult your physician for two reasons. The first is that prostate enlargement can lead to other problems such as damage to the bladder and kidneys which can be serious. The second is that, in addition to an enlarged prostate, many men will also develop prostate cancer and the symptoms of an enlarged prostate may well mask this until the cancer is too far advanced to treat it effectively.
About one in six men will contract prostate cancer and well over ninety percent of these cases can be effectively treated if they are caught early enough.