The growing problem of an enlarged prostate gland

The growing problem of an enlarged prostate gland

The most common prostate problem among men over age 50, this condition can cause embarrassing urination issues.

By age 60, half of all men will have an enlarged prostate, a condition also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH. By age 85, the proportion reaches 90%.

While BPH does not increase your risk of getting prostate cancer or having sexual problems, it can affect quality of life, specifically by causing annoying and embarrassing urination problems.

"Since prostate enlargement happens gradually, men often think more frequent trips to the bathroom are a natural part of aging," says Dr. Howard LeWine, chief medical editor at Harvard Health Publishing and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. "But a little medication can help relieve symptoms, meaning less urinary urgency and fewer nighttime awakenings to use the bathroom."

As you age, your prostate can grow from the size of a walnut to about the size of a lemon. It's not clear why the prostate grows like this, but it's believed certain male hormones such as dihydrotestosterone tend to act more strongly on the prostate gland later in life.

Because the prostate is located just below the bladder, when it becomes larger it can place pressure on the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder through the penis and out of the body. This may lead to a variety of urination problems.

For example, you may have trouble beginning to urinate, continue to dribble afterward, and feel like you have not fully emptied your bladder. Urine that doesn't get expelled and collects in the bladder can increase the risk of infection, which in turn makes it painful to urinate and causes even more bathroom trips and potentially loss of bladder control. Urinary tract (or bladder) infections can also lead to a kidney infection.

Source: Harvard Medical

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