Healthy Men, Healthy Prostate
The prostate is a gland the size of a walnut located between the pubic bone and the rectum in men. The prostate's main job is to make part of the fluid in which sperm travel. The urethra (the tube through which urine leaves the body) runs through the center of the prostate gland. There are many different kinds of prostate problems, and they are common in men age 50 and older.
Symptoms of prostate problems can include:
- Difficulty starting or stopping urination
- Frequent need to urinate
- Need to urinate in the middle of the night
- Pain with urination
- Weak or unsteady urine stream
- Urine leakage (incontinence)
- Feeling as if the bladder is not completely empty after urination
- Pain in and around the base of the penis or discomfort between the scrotum and rectum
- Pus, blood, or cloudiness in the urine
- Painful ejaculation
- Difficulty having an erection
- Pain in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs
Types of Prostate Problems
Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate gland.
Enlarged prostate, also called benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), is a noncancerous enlargement affected by the male hormone testosterone and by aging. Starting at about age 40, the prostate gland naturally begins to enlarge in most men. Almost 90 percent of men ages 80 and older have an enlarged prostate. Some men have BPH but have no problems as a result. In others, however, the enlarged prostate may begin to press inward on the urethra, partially or completely blocking the flow of urine and causing symptoms. If the bladder never completely empties, a buildup of old urine can lead to bladder or urinary tract infection. In severe cases the enlarged prostate may stop the flow of urine so much that it causes kidney problems.
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer, other than skin cancer, among men in the United States. It is second only to lung cancer as a cause of cancer-related death among men. Although the causes of prostate cancer are not well understood, there are certain factors that can increase your risk:
- Age. Prostate cancer is found mainly in men over age 55.
- Family history. Your risk is higher if your father or brother has had the disease.
- Race. The disease is much more common in African American men than in Caucasian men and less common in Asian and Native American men.
- Diet. Some evidence suggests a diet high in animal fat may increase the risk of prostate cancer, whereas a diet high in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk.
After testing, the following treatment may be recommended.
If you have a bacterial infection, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics, which need to be taken for at least 4 to 6 weeks. Hospitalization is sometimes needed so antibiotics can be given intravenously (into your vein).
The most commonly used medications for treating an enlarged prostate are alpha-blockers and finasteride. Alpha-blockers relax the muscles of the prostate and the opening of the bladder.
Watchful waiting may be suggested if prostate cancer has been found at an early stage and appears to be growing slowly. This is often advised for older men or men with other health problems, because the side effects of treatment may outweigh the benefits.
Surgery is a common treatment for prostate cancer. Your doctor may remove all the prostate or just part of it. A procedure called cryosurgery is sometimes used to kill the cancer by freezing it. If cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body, your doctor will usually recommend a different type of treatment.
Follow these self-care steps to help reduce everyday symptoms and prevent potential problems:
- Go to the bathroom as soon as you feel the urge to urinate. Don't "hold it."
- Drink plenty of fluids to help flush away possible bacteria and old urine in the bladder, but don't drink large quantities all at one time or just before bedtime. Try drinking an 8-ounce glass of water each hour during the day.
- Avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, colas) and alcohol, which will make you urinate more.
- Soak in a hot bath to help relieve discomfort and pain.
- Avoid cold and allergy medications that contain antihistamines or decongestants.
- If your doctor prescribes an antibiotic, take your medication exactly as it is prescribed.
Call your doctor if you have symptoms that get worse or are not relieved with self-care.
The three most important steps you can take to maintain prostate health are to eat well, keep physically active, and see your doctor regularly. Because prostate cancer is curable when caught early but often doesn't have symptoms, talk to your doctor about scheduling routine prostate exams.
Healthy Men, Healthy Prostate
Join Dr. Greg Andros, urologist, to discuss drug-free solutions for enlarged prostate and erectile dysfunction, a condition affecting millions of men. This free program will be presented on Thursday, May 12, from 6-7 p.m. at the Silver Cross Hospital Conference Center, 1200 Maple Rd., Joliet. Visit www.silvercross.org or call 1-888-660-HEAL (4325) to register.