What is the prostate gland?
The prostate gland is a small organ found in the male. It is located below the bladder, just in front of the rectum. It also wraps itself around the male urethra as it exits from the bladder down into the penis. Its size depends on the age of the male. It is about the size of a walnut when a man is in his 20s, the size of an apricot in his 40s and by the age 60, it may be the size of a lemon.
Even though it is situated deep into the male pelvis, it can be felt if a finger is inserted into the rectum.
What is the function of the prostate gland?
The prostate gland is an important reproductive organ in the male. It produces about 30% of seminal fluid, which is the fluid that carries the sperm. The seminal fluid is important in maintaining sperm quality.
What are the three most common problems affecting the prostate
The three most common problems affecting the prostate are inflammation (prostatitis), enlarged prostate (BPH, or benign prostatic hyperplasia), and prostate cancer.
This is inflammation of the prostate. It usually occurs in younger men and mostly bacterial. It can also be part of a sexually transmitted infection.
Generally, the symptoms of prostatitis are: trouble passing urine, a burning or stinging feeling or pain when passing urine, strong, frequent urge to pass urine, chills and high fever, low back pain or body aches, pain low in the belly, groin, or behind the scrotum, rectal pressure or pain, urethral discharge with bowel movements, genital and rectal throbbing, loss of sex drive, and a painful ejaculation.
Based on the symptoms, prostatitis can be classified as
Acute bacterial prostatitis, a type of prostatitis that is a bacterial infection and comes on suddenly. Symptoms include severe chills and fever. There is often blood in the urine in addition to any of the above symptoms of prostatitis.
Chronic bacterial prostatitis, a type that is also caused by bacteria but occurs over a long period of time. It may not have the typical symptoms of prostatitis but can cause recurrent urinary tract infections
Chronic prostatitis or chronic pelvic pain syndrome, a common type of prostatitis that is found in any age of men. It is usually not caused by bacteria and can occur in any age. Its exact cause is not clear. It can also cause pain or discomfort in the groin.
Please visit your doctor if you suspect any of the above symptoms.
Enlarged prostate (Benign prostatic hyperplasia)
This is caused by prostate enlargement. The prostate usually enlarges with age and this is more commonly seen in men in their late 30s, early 40s upwards. Benign means that this is not cancer and cannot lead to cancer.
Because of the position of the prostate round the urethra, the problems related to BPH are often urinary problems. The symptoms are: Trouble initiating urination, Passing urine often, especially at night, uncomfortable feeling that the bladder has not fully emptied, a strong or sudden urge to pass urine, Weak or slow urine stream, stopping and starting again several times while passing urine, pushing or straining to start passing urine, backflow of urine causing bladder or kidney infections, complete block in the flow of urine and kidney failure.
The problems with urination caused by BPH make life a little uncomfortable, as the management can range from medications, passing a urinary catheter (tube inside the urethra for urination) to surgical removal. Do book an appointment with a urologist if you notice such symptoms.
This is the third and most serious problem with the prostate. It occurs when cancer cells occur in the prostate. This can also make the prostate enlarge and cause symptoms that mimic a BPH.
All the symptoms described in BPH can occur in prostate cancer. There are also additional symptoms caused as a result of spread of the cancer cells. The common sites of spread are the bones, especially lower back, the spine, the lungs and the surrounding structures. These symptoms include low back pain which may be severe, difficulty or pain in walking, cough, weakness, and weight loss.
The good news is that this cancer is a slow growing cancer and will not produce significant symptoms in the lifetime of most men affected by this. More than half of all American men have some cancer in their prostate glands by the age of 80. Most of these cancers never pose a problem.
However, do see your doctor if you notice any of the above symptoms.