The prostate is a small gland about the size of walnut that is located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It also wraps around the upper part of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body. This gland is also an essential part of the male reproductive system and it produces fluid (semen) that is responsible for the transfer for sperm. That means prostate problems can affect urination and sexual function.
The prostate gland can commonly suffer from three conditions:
- Prostatitis: infection or inflammation of the prostate
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or enlargement of prostate gland
- Prostate cancer
Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate and can cause it to become swollen, tender or inflamed. It generally refers to four different conditions that affect the prostate gland.
Two types of prostatitis are linked to urinary tract infections (UTIs). The other two types are not. Adult men of any age can get prostatitis.
- Acute bacterial prostatitis is a urinary tract infection that causes an infection in the prostate gland. Symptoms include fever and chills. You may experience painful and frequent urination or have trouble urinating. Acute bacterial prostatitis requires immediate medical treatment.
- Chronic bacterial prostatitis is when bacteria is trapped in the prostate gland, causing recurrent urinary tract infections. Symptoms are similar to acute prostatitis however here it becomes difficult to treat and recurrent.
- Chronic pelvic pain syndrome, or CPPS is the most common prostatitis type. Prostate gland inflammation occurs in approximately one out of three men. As the name implies, this type causes chronic pain in the pelvis, perineum (the area between the scrotum and rectum) and genitals.
- Asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis causes prostate gland inflammation but no symptoms. One may find out about this condition after getting tests to find the cause of other problems.
Enlarged prostate—benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
As a men age, their prostate tends to get bigger in size gradually. Men over the age of 50 are more likely to suffer from prostate enlargement.
The common symptoms that might be experienced by man suffering from prostate enlargement are:
- Difficulty in urinating or getting steady flow
- Frequent and urgent need to urinate
- Awakening in night to urinate
It is important to speak to your doctor in case if one is experiencing any of the above mentioned symptoms regardless of age.
At times, an enlarged prostate can be treated with changes in lifestyle, medication or surgery (in some cases).
Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men. Most prostate cancers develop slowly and are asymptomatic, meaning there are no apparent symptoms to indicate cancer in the gland. Fast-growing prostate cancer is less common and its survival rate is generally reported high. However it is important for men to be aware of the symptoms and tests for screening to assess the overall health of prostate.
Prostate cancer often doesn’t present any symptoms until it’s at a very advanced stage. The PSA blood test will generally indicate problems before any symptoms even show, but remember that not all prostate problems are cancer.
Older men who experience urinary problems, have a weak flow when they do urinate, wake often at night to go to the toilet or have blood in their urine may simply have an enlarged prostate, which is dealt with differently than cancer. Should you experience any of the symptoms mentioned, do consult your physician.
The common symptoms of prostate cancer are:
- Urinary symptoms such as urinary frequency or a weak stream of urine
- Blood in the urine
- Erection problems
- Urinary incontinence
- Bone pain could be a sign that the cancer has spread through the body. This is known as metastatic disease
Early and asymptomatic prostate cancer can be diagnosed by routine cancer screening. This involves a yearly prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and a digital rectal examination (DRE) in men above the age of 50. However, men with a family history of cancer should start being screened a decade earlier, from the age of 40.
The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is used to screen for prostate cancer. PSA is a blood test to check the levels of this protein. If the PSA level is too high, this may suggest that the cells in the prostate are behaving unusually. However, an elevated PSA may indicate cancer, infection or benign enlargement. This test should be used along with a digital rectal exam to check the size of the prostate as well. For further diagnosis, imaging or biopsy is also done.