The prostate is a golf ball-sized gland located under the bladder and in front of the rectum in men. While all of its functions are not known, the prostate adds fluid and nutrients to sperm to produce semen and allow the sperm to move more effectively. An enlarged prostate, known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), is a common condition that occurs as men age, causing the gland to press against the urethra and cause problems with urination.
As men mature, the prostate goes through two main growth phases, first during puberty and again around the age of 25. This second growth phase may continue for many years, and can eventually lead to an enlarged prostate later in life. In fact, more than 50 percent of men over the age of 50 are affected by this condition, although its cause is unknown. As the prostate expands, more and more urinary symptoms develop.
Men with an enlarged prostate may experience:
- Difficulty starting to urinate
- Slowed urine stream
- Frequent urination
- Sudden urge to urinate
As symptoms progress, patients may also develop bladder stones, blood in the urine or a bladder infection. This condition will continue to worsen if left untreated.
Treatment for an enlarged prostate can vary depending on the severity of the condition. Patients with mild symptoms may only need to monitor their condition for signs that it is worsening, while more severe cases may require medication to inhibit hormone production or relax the muscle in the prostate.
Surgery may be required to remove the prostate tissue that is blocking the flow of urine. There are several different surgical procedures available for treating an enlarged prostate, including transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP), transurethral incision of the prostate (TUIP), transurethral needle ablation (TUNA), transurethral microwave therapy (TUMT) and several minimally invasive procedures to relieve urinary obstruction. Surgery for an enlarged prostate usually provides effective results for at least 15 years, but patients should continue to have rectal exams once a year and should see their doctor at the first sign of recurring symptoms.