As men age, their bodies begin to change in different ways. There are obvious changes, like graying hair, smile lines on their face, and an increased appreciation for classic rock. There are less obvious changes as well, like an enlarging prostate. An enlarged prostate is present in more than half of men over the age of 50 in the United States. This number increases as men reach the age of 80, at which time an enlarged prostate is present in more than 90% of men.
Having a healthy understanding of your prostate and the potential issues that come with enlargement is important to developing long-term health and wellness strategies.
What is Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia?
Your prostate is a gland that’s located just under the bladder. The prostate produces the fluid that carries sperm during ejaculation. Your prostate also surrounds your urethra, which channels urine out of the body.
An enlarged prostate goes by many terms. You may see it referred to as benign prostate hyperplasia or BPH. While BPH is not cancerous, it does increase your chance of developing prostate cancer.
Causes of an Enlarged Prostate
While inconvenient, an enlarged prostate is simply a natural part of the aging process. Despite the volume of research into this issue, its causes are not entirely understood. Some research suggests that changes in male sex hormones as men age could lead to the increased size of the prostate. A family history of problems related to the prostate or testicles may also play a role. Additionally, factors like race, genetics, and lifestyle may contribute to the enlargement of the prostate. Those with diabetes and heart disease are at increased risk of an enlarged prostate.
Depending on the size of your prostate, your symptoms may be more or less severe than others. Symptoms of BPH typically worsen as time passes. While everyone may experience different degrees of discomfort due to BPH, the symptoms are generally the same:
- Regular need to urinate
- More frequent night-time urination
- Trouble starting and stopping urination
- Inability to empty the bladder entirely
- A weak urine stream or dribbling at the end of urination
In some cases, those with BPH may experience urinary tract infections or blood in the urine. Climate conditions, like cold weather, some medications, and high levels of stress can exacerbate the symptoms of BPH in some men.
Is an Enlarged Prostate Dangerous?
If left untreated, BPH could lead to other complications that can worsen an individual’s quality of life. More frequent trips to the bathroom, a feeling of always having to urinate, and interrupted sleep because of nightly trips to the bathroom can leave men feeling tired and stressed.
The real problems with an enlarged prostate start when men ignore their symptoms and do not reach out to a doctor. This can cause potentially dangerous medical issues. For men who do not address their BPH early, they may develop urinary tract infections, bladder stones, kidney damage, and even the inability to urinate entirely. If an individual is unable to urinate, this is called a bladder outlet obstruction. Urine trapped in the bladder can damage your kidneys.
Is BPH the Same as Prostate Cancer?
While BPH and prostate cancer share many symptoms and can have similar impacts on your urinary habits, they are not the same condition. Men with an enlarged prostate may be at increased risk of developing prostate cancer.
Treating Your Enlarged Prostate
In some men, BPH may not require any medical treatment. Managing an enlarged prostate can be accomplished through lifestyle changes, like improving diet and exercise, and other natural remedies. However, it’s always advisable to work with a doctor to develop a long-term treatment plan to ensure that your BPH symptoms do not worsen with time.
For those with severe BPH, medications or surgeries may be used to address any related complications and problems.
Men with an enlarged prostate should also receive regular screenings for prostate cancer so that it can be caught, and treated, early.
A New Way To Treat Prostate Cancer
If you’ve been diagnosed with an early, or moderate, case of prostate cancer, you may be a great candidate for a HIFU treatment. This innovative new process uses non-invasive methods to destroy harmful tissues and tumors in the prostate. Doctors use high-intensity focused ultrasound in an outpatient treatment that can dramatically improve your quality of life. Learn more about HIFU, whether you qualify for treatment, and where you can receive this treatment, and then schedule a consultation.