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Prostate basics

Prostate problems include enlarged prostate, prostatitis and prostate cancer.

The prostate is a small gland in men that is part of the reproductive system. It’s about the shape and size of a walnut. The prostate rests below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It surrounds part of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder. The prostate helps make semen, which carries sperm from the testicles when a man ejaculates.

Male Anatomy of Reproduction: The Prostate

Enlarged prostate

As a man ages, the prostate can grow larger. When a man reaches the age of 40, the prostate gland might have increased from the size of a walnut to that of an apricot. By the time he reaches the age of 60, it might be the size of a lemon.

Because it surrounds part of the urethra, the enlarged prostate can squeeze the urethra and cause problems in the passing of urine. Typically, these problems don’t occur in men until they are aged 50 or older. They can, though, occur earlier.

An enlarged prostate is also called benign (non- cancerous) prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH. It is common and cannot be prevented. Not all men will find their symptoms troublesome.

Symptoms of an enlarged prostate may include:

  • Trouble with starting to urinate, or with urinating freely
  • Having to urinate frequently, particularly at night
  • Feeling that the bladder is not empty after urinating
  • Feeling a sudden urge to urinate
  • Having to stop and start repeatedly while urinating
  • Having to strain to urinate

To maintain prostate health, it is important for men who have early symptoms of BPH to seek medical advice. BPH is a progressive disease. It can lead to serious, though rare, health problems, such as kidney or bladder damage.

Treatments include:

Watchful waiting: Patients who have an enlarged prostate but who are not suffering symptoms or whose symptoms are not troublesome may be advised by their doctor to merely get a check-up if symptoms develop.

Lifestyle changes: These could include drinking less at night and before bedtime, especially drinks containing alcohol or caffeine.

Drug therapy: Two common treatments for BPH are alpha-blockers, which alleviate BPH symptoms, and 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors, which help shrink the prostate. Many men take them together.

Surgery: There are different types that are generally used for men with severe symptoms who haven’t been helped by other treatment.


Prostatitis is an infection or inflammation of the prostate. It can affect men from their late teens to old age. There are two main types of prostatitis – acute and chronic. It is sometimes caused by bacteria.

Possible symptoms of prostatitis include:

Treatment often includes antibiotics.

A man who has recently had a catheter or another medical instrument inserted into his urethra is at a greater risk of bacterial prostatitis. Some sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia, may cause prostatitis.

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