What Every Man Needs To Know About His Prostate
Men everywhere know that prostate health is important, but most of those men never understand why—or what their prostate even is for that matter!
As you age, your prostate may grow, causing what we call an enlarged prostate. Or your prostate may experience severe swelling, known as prostatitis. Additionally, there could be health or environmental factors in your life that put you at risk for prostate cancer.
Having a healthy, well-functioning prostate is key to fighting all three of those things. But if you don’t know what your prostate is or does, how are you supposed to keep it healthy?
Throughout this blog, we will discuss everything a man should know about his prostate. We’ll explain what your prostate is, what it does and what you may experience down the road.
Our hope is to build a conversation around prostate health, so men everywhere have the knowledge they need to make educated health decisions regarding their prostate.
So, let’s get this conversation started!
What is the prostate?
The prostate is a small gland that sits between the bladder and rectum. It is responsible for creating some of the fluid in semen, making it an important part of the male reproductive system.
The prostate is actually about the size of a walnut, but it can grow over time, causing benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), also known as an enlarged prostate.
Why does the prostate become enlarged?
Once men get into their 40s, 50s and 60s, many notice the effects of an enlarged prostate. A man in his 40s may have a prostate the size of an apricot, while the prostate of a man in his 60s may be the size of a lemon.
Often times this growth is due to age, but there are several risk factors associated with an enlarged prostate such as:
- Lack of physical activity
- Erectile dysfunction
- Increasing age
- Family history of BPH
Just because you may have an enlarged prostate, doesn’t mean you have to live with it for the rest of your life! There are five treatment options for BPH, two of which are minimally invasive in-office procedures. Your urologist will be able to determine which procedure is right for you based on your symptoms and the severity of BPH.
What are the symptoms of an enlarged prostate?
Men who experience BPH may begin to notice they have difficulty urinating. This occurs because the prostate is wrapped around the urethra, which is the tube in the penis that carries urine to the bladder. As the prostate grows, it constricts the urethra, making it more difficult to urinate and causing increased stress on the bladder.
Other BPH symptoms include:
- Stopping and starting during urination
- Dribbling after urination
- Incomplete emptying of the bladder
- Feeling the need to urinate again after recently urinating
- Frequent urination, especially at night
- Urgent need to urinate
- Blood in urine
However, just because you experience these symptoms doesn’t mean you are suffering from an enlarged prostate. These symptoms could relate to a number of things, including prostate cancer and prostatitis.
What causes the prostate to swell?
Prostatitis occurs when the prostate, or the area around it, becomes inflamed. Prostatitis could be a symptom of another disease, or it could be caused by a bacterial infection. Either way, there are many reasons and causes for a man to experience prostatitis.
Some men may not even know that they are experiencing prostatitis, and some may experience pain similar to that of a urinary tract infection (UTI). However, there are many symptoms associated with prostatitis that can range in levels of severity.
Prostatitis symptoms include:
- Pain in the groin, bladder, genital area, back, abdomen, testicles, prostate or rectum
- Pain during urination
- Dribbling after urination
- Frequent urination, especially at night
- Chills, fever, fatigue
- Pain when ejaculating
- Overwhelming fatigue
- Swollen scrotum or lymph nodes
- See additional prostatitis symptoms here
The specific causes of prostatitis are unknown, but there are treatment options to reduce the swelling and regain normal prostate function. Normally, prostatitis can be treated with antibiotics and a little time. However, some severe cases may require surgery to remove the infection.
Prostatitis symptoms can be intense. But, just like with BPH, these symptoms may indicate something more serious is wrong—like prostate cancer.
How do I know if my symptoms are related to prostate cancer?
Unfortunately, the symptoms for an enlarged prostate, prostatitis and prostate cancer overlap quite a bit. However, there are a few symptoms that may distinguish prostate cancer from the others:
- Pain or a burning sensation while urinating
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Frequent pain in the lower back, pelvis or upper thighs
If someone is diagnosed with prostate cancer, they may also experience difficulty urinating, or may even feel incapable of urinating.
While age plays a big role in developing BPH, it is an unproven risk factor of prostate cancer. Unlike an enlarged prostate that normally fluctuates over time, prostate cancer occurs when cells in the prostate become damaged and start to divide uncontrollably.
If your father or brother was diagnosed with prostate cancer, there is a higher risk that you could also be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Poor diet and high-calorie intake has also been known to increase the risk of prostate cancer.
Like many other cancers, prostate cancer is treatable and there are multiple procedure options available. However, the type of procedure needed will highly depend on the staging and diagnosis of prostate cancer.
While BPH, prostatitis and prostate cancer are all potential outcomes of poor prostate health, there are ways you can reduce the risk of these happening to you.
6 Ways To Maintain A Healthy Prostate
Just because men are less likely to feel the symptoms of an enlarged prostate, prostatitis and prostate cancer later in life doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be proactive about reducing their risk now.
To keep your prostate healthy, implement these six prostate health tips into your daily life:
1. Focus on nutrition
To keep a healthy prostate, dedicate yourself to focusing more on nutrition. Consume more fruits and vegetables, and steer clear of foods that are high in sugar.
Improve your diet by eating healthy fats (such as avocado) and try to choose plant protein over animal protein. Omega 3-rich foods such as salmon are also known to be beneficial for prostate health.
For more ways to improve your health and nutrition, download our Health & Nutrition guide.
2. Stay hydrated
Hydration is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and a healthy prostate. Make sure you are drinking the proper amount of fluids each day. Also, drink purified water—water with contaminants may build up and cause other health problems such as bladder cancer.
3. Exercise regularly
Daily exercise will help combat inactivity and weight gain, both of which may contribute to poor prostate health. Exercises will help strengthen your pelvis, and therefore promote a healthy prostate.
4. Cut out bad habits
Eliminate bad habits such as smoking and tobacco use, drinking alcohol and lack of proper sleep. These can weaken your immune system and make it easier to experience the effects of a weakened prostate.
5. Maintain a healthy sex life
Sexual activity can also be beneficial for prostate health. Maintain a healthy sex life—even as you age—to keep your prostate strong and fight potential symptoms.
6. Schedule regular appointments with your urologist
Tests like a urinalysis, Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test, and prostate exam will allow your urologist to detect early symptoms and signs of potential issues within the prostate.
You’re bound to see the benefits of changing your lifestyle. However, these changes won’t prevent BPH, prostatitis or prostate cancer from happening to you. The best thing you can do to maintain a healthy prostate is to continue scheduling regular appointments with your urologist.
Here at Urology Specialists of the Carolinas, we specialize in prostate health. When it comes to maintaining a healthy prostate, we promise to listen and educate you on any potential diagnoses and treatments.
If you find yourself with more questions about your prostate, don’t be afraid to ask—and don’t dismiss symptoms if they appear! Remember, our goal is to start the conversation, it’s up to you to keep it going.
For more information on maintaining a healthy lifestyle while aging, download our free Man-To-Man Guide on Healthy Aging below.