Enlarged Prostate

Information on enlarged prostate symptoms and swollen prostate glands.

Select a Topic

  1. What is Enlarged Prostate?
  2. Diagnosing Enlarged Prostate
  3. Symptoms of an Enlarged Prostate
  4. What Causes Enlarged Prostate?
  5. Help for Enlarged Prostate
  6. Tips for Coping with an Enlarged Prostate

What is Enlarged Prostate?

The prostate is a small gland specific to men, located beneath the urinary bladder and wrapped around the urethra. The healthy human prostate is slightly larger than a walnut and although it is called a gland, since it is made of two lobes completely surrounded by an outer tissue layer; the term "organ" is a more fitting description.

With the process of aging, it is quite common for the prostate gland to become enlarged. As a man matures, the prostate goes through two main periods of growth. The first occurs early in puberty, during male genital development, when the prostate doubles in size.

Diagnosing Enlarged Prostate

The diagnosis of a swollen prostate is made by a rectal examination, urinalysis, a check of the discharged fluid for signs of infection or inflammation, a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test, and frequently with ultrasound.

Ultrasound has proven a particularly useful tool in diagnosing prostate enlargement. It allows doctors to view an image of the bladder, which tells them how well a man is emptying his bladder. The device is handheld, non-invasive and totally painless.

Symptoms of an Enlarged Prostate

  • Lower back and thigh pain
  • Frequent urination (especially during the night)
  • Urine retention
  • Burning with urination and a discharge from the penis
  • Sensation of fullness behind the scrotum and in front of the rectum
  • A thin stream of urine which stops and starts rather than a full stream of urine
  • Difficulty starting the urinary stream
  • ‘Dribbling’ after urinating

As the symptoms progress, the bladder may not empty entirely and urine is retained, increasing the risk of infection.

What Causes Enlarged Prostate?

At around age 25, the gland begins to grow again. This second growth phase often results, many years later as a man ages, in an enlarged prostate gland. In this process the prostate enlarges, with the layer of tissue surrounding the prostate ceasing to expand.

This causes the prostate gland to press against the urethra like a clamp on a garden hose. The bladder wall becomes thicker and irritable. The bladder begins to contract even when it contains small amounts of urine, leading to more frequent urination.

Eventually, the bladder weakens and loses the ability to empty itself. Urine remains in the bladder. This may cause symptoms similar to a urinary tract infection.

Many people feel uncomfortable talking about the prostate, since the gland plays a role in both sex and urination. Still, prostate enlargement is as common a part of aging as gray hair and memory loss. As life expectancy rises, so does the occurrence of a swollen or enlarged prostate due to aging.

Help for Enlarged Prostate

Treatment may involve antibiotics, medications to shrink or relax the prostate or bladder, soaking in a warm tub of water and frequent ejaculation. The goal is to avoid reaching the point of urinary retention, where one can’t urinate at all.

Patients suffering from an enlarged prostate and who do not have kidney inflammation, damage or serious infection will have to decide which option recommended by their doctor suits them best.

Sometimes men may take antibiotics for a long period of time without any true benefit. In fact, many of these conditions are not infections but simply muscle spasms involving the prostate and surrounding tissue. This is a condition called prostatosis or prostadynia.

Treatment for this includes muscle relaxants and warm baths. Hytrin or Cardura, typically used for high blood pressure are also muscle relaxants and have been shown to be successful. These days, however, Flowmax or Uroxitrol are more often prescribed.


Tips for Coping with an Enlarged Prostate

  • For night-time frequency drink as little fluid as possible after 6:00 p.m.
  • It is important to avoid caffeine-containing liquids (tea, coffee, fizzy colas). At the very least, don't drink caffeinated or alcoholic beverages after dinner.
  • Get up and urinate as soon as you feel the first night-time urge. Wait approximately a minute or two and try to urinate again. If you get a fair amount out, repeat this one more time.
  • Relax, or learn to relax if you don't know how through meditation, relaxation techniques and calming music.
  • Reduce the fat content of your diet and try to lose weight naturally if you suffer with obesity.
  • Have safe intercourse frequently. Ejaculation will remove prostatic fluid and shrink the prostate.
  • Take part in some form of physical exercise every day – even a quick stroll around the block when you get home.
  • Avoid antihistamines and other over-the-counter decongestants and cold remedies.
  • Avoid cold weather if possible.
  • Soak in a warm bath or hot tub for 20 minutes (maximum) two or three times per day. The heat of the water will penetrate the prostate to reduce swelling and promote healing. (Don’t exceed 20 minutes at a time, as this can lead to sperm motility problems and possible infertility).
  • Avoid prolonged sitting. A man sits on his prostate. If the onset of symptoms coincides with physical activity such as biking, or increased sitting your routine should be changed.
  • Products such as Prostate Dr. provide ongoing support to a healthy prostate, natural urine flow, bladder health and the male urinary system.
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