Do you find yourself getting up at night to use the bathroom? Do you feel like you’ve always got to “go”? If you’re over the age of 50, you might be struggling with BPH or benign prostatic hyperplasia. It’s estimated that 50 percent of men in their 50s have BPH or an enlarged prostate. While this is a common medical condition, that doesn’t always mean it’s a comfortable one.
So if you’ve been diagnosed with an enlarged prostate, what do you do about it? Fortunately, there are a few different options you can pursue to manage your enlarged prostate before it starts to interrupt your quality of life.
Recognizing the Symptoms of an Enlarged Prostate
As men age, their prostate grows larger. This is a natural process, but one that can be uncomfortable. As the prostate expands, it can block the flow of urine through the urethra, making it difficult to urinate. In order to empty the bladder entirely, the muscles around the bladder become stronger and contract in response to even a little urine in the bladder. The result is that men feel the need to “go” more often. Eventually, the muscles around the bladder cannot contract enough to force urine through the blocked urethra, and the bladder cannot completely empty.
If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may have an enlarged prostate:
- Slowed or weakened urinary stream
- A recurring, or urgent, need to urinate
- An interrupted urinary stream
- Starting and stopping urination is difficult
- The need to urinate minutes after finishing
In addition to the discomfort you might feel while urinating, an enlarged prostate could lead to other issues, like urinary tract infections, bladder stones, and incontinence.
Managing Your Enlarged Prostate
Living with an enlarged prostate can be challenging, uncomfortable, and inconvenient. Fortunately, there are several treatment options that use both medicine and natural remedies. In some cases, one or the other, or even a combination of these treatments may be effective in managing your enlarged prostate without the need for surgery or other treatment like HIFU.
Start with Self-Care
While more than half of men over the age of 50 may live with BPH or an enlarged prostate, that doesn’t mean that all of them need a complicated treatment strategy of medicines or surgeries. For many, simple self-care options may be more than enough.
Staying active helps to strengthen your muscles, even as they naturally atrophy with age. Frequent exercise helps you manage your weight, lowering the chance of having prostate problems. Exercise also helps your body produce the hormones it needs to keep the prostate healthy. You can also perform specific exercises, like kegel exercises, which strengthen the muscles in your pelvic floor. This can be performed while urinating. Simply start urinating, and stop the stream after a few seconds. Resume after holding.
You can make changes in how, and what you drink. For instance, alcohol, coffee, and some juices are diuretics, meaning that they cause an increased need to urinate. You can avoid, or lessen your intake of these beverages. Additionally, you can space out your consumption of drinks, rather than consuming a lot all at once.
Try a Change in Diet
Along with increased exercise, a change in diet could help you manage your enlarged prostate. Researchers continue to explore how diet impacts the prostate, and a four-year study from China found promising links. The research group found that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables leads to lower urinary tract symptoms, fewer issues with erectile dysfunction, and reduced BPH symptoms. Indeed, the group found that this diet was also effective in preventing BPH symptoms from getting worse. The study suggests that it’s the increased vitamins and nutrients found in fruits and vegetables that had a positive impact on the urinary health of the participants.
Reduce Stress in Your Life
Having an enlarged prostate is undoubtedly a stressful experience, and that stress can actually worsen the symptoms. When your body is stressed, it changes its hormone levels in response. These hormone levels can influence your symptoms of BPH.
There’s some evidence to suggest that stress may actually contribute to the enlargement of the prostate. Hormones like testosterone and dihydrotestosterone can encourage prostate growth. The interaction of adrenaline with the sympathetic nervous system can also stimulate the muscles in the prostate and bladder, slowing the stream of urine through the urethra.
In some cases, simple acts like meditation, measured breathing, and exercise are enough to manage feelings of stress, which in turn lessens the symptoms of the enlarged prostate.
While natural remedies work for some, others may need a little extra help from a prescription medication. After consulting with your doctor about factors like your age, overall health, other medical concerns, and the size of your prostate and its impact on your life, they may prescribe one of a few different medicines.
Alpha-blockers work by relaxing the muscles in the bladder and the muscle fibers of the prostate. When the muscles begin to relax, it makes urination far easier. Generally, patients who use alpha-blockers see an increase in the flow of urine and feel that they do not need to urinate as frequently. The effects of the alpha-blocker are felt after one to two days.
Another medication that may help with symptoms is a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor. This medicine reduces the overall size of the prostate gland. By blocking the hormones that encourage the growth of the prostate, it lessens the need to urinate as frequently. Patients generally find relief after three to six months of using a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor.
In some cases, your doctor may prescribe a combination of alpha-blockers and 5-alpha reductase inhibitors.
Surgery is an Option
If natural remedies and medications are not effective in managing your enlarged prostate, your doctor may suggest a surgical option. The two most common procedures include transurethral resection, which removes part of the prostate, and a laser procedure that destroys the tissues blocking the urethra. Other procedures use implants to expand the urethra to encourage greater urine flow.
Managing Your Enlarged Prostate Today for Lasting Health
If your doctor has diagnosed you with an enlarged prostate, it’s in your best interest to also get checked for the early stages of prostate cancer. By the age of 80, more than half of American men have some form of prostate cancer. Treatment options like a high-intensity focused ultrasound is a non-invasive way to eliminate these harmful tissues before they become a serious problem.