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Do I Have an Enlarged Prostate?

March 30, 2021

If you’re having trouble urinating, you may have an enlarged prostate. Known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), an enlarged prostate commonly affects men as they age.

An overgrowth of cells in the prostate, a walnut-sized organ that is part of the male reproductive system, can cause it to become enlarged. Because the prostate gland surrounds the urethra, an enlarged prostate can constrict the flow of urine through the urethra.

Almost all men will experience an enlarged prostate as they age. Between the ages of 51 and 60, nearly 50% of men develop an enlarged prostate, with the percentage increasing each year. By age 80, 90 percent of men are likely to experience problems urinating because of an enlarged prostate.

How An Enlarged Prostate Affects Daily Life

If your prostate is enlarged, you might experience:

  • Frequent trips to the bathroom, both during the day and at night

  • Difficulty starting and stopping a urine stream

  • Weak or slow urine stream

  • A sense that your bladder is not completely empty after urinating

  • Incontinence

  • Pain or discomfort during urination

BPH doesn’t affect fertility or sexual activity and doesn’t cause prostate cancer, but to prevent future problems, it’s important to see a urologist.

Is It Preventable?

An enlarged prostate is a normal part of the aging process in men and can’t be prevented. But seeing your doctor when you first notice potential symptoms can help.

If left unaddressed, an enlarged prostate can lead to decreased kidney function and bladder damage, and in some cases may block the urethra so you have difficulty urinating on your own.

When you meet with your doctor, they’ll ask you questions about your health history and symptoms you’re experiencing, how severe they are and how they’re affecting your life. You’ll receive a physical examination, including a urine test (urinalysis) and digital rectal exam, which allows your doctor to feel the size of your prostate.

Watchful Waiting

The term “watchful waiting” means getting regular exams and tests to see if your symptoms worsen over time. In the meantime, consider lifestyle changes to help manage the symptoms of BPH. These include:

  • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol: These may cause you to urinate more often.

  • Double voiding: Urinate as much as you can, relax for a moment, and urinate again to empty your bladder.

  • Doing pelvic floor exercises: These strengthen muscles in your pelvic floor, helping control urination.

In many cases, an enlarged prostate doesn’t require treatment, unless the symptoms are affecting your quality of life or you have other medical issues, especially a bladder infection or bladder stones.

When Is a Big Prostate a Big Deal?

If symptoms of BPH are affecting your daily life, your doctor may prescribe alpha-blockers, which relax the muscles near the prostate and help urine flow more freely, or 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors, which help shrink the prostate to relieve symptoms.

If your prostate is so enlarged that it is causing other health problems, you might need surgery. Surgery is an option when medications stop working or for those who can no longer urinate at all. 

If you have an enlarged prostate, visiting a urologist who specializes in this condition can help prevent worsening symptoms and lead to dramatic improvement through minor interventions.

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