Prostate problems are a common occurrence in men over the age of 50 years although some men as young as 40 will start experiencing prostate discomfort. In most cases there is concern about prostate cancer and while this type of malignancy is becoming more common, it is not the only type of prostate disease to plague men. Other more common prostate problems include an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH) and prostate inflammation (prostatitis which may be due to an infection).
Signs and Symptoms of Prostate Problems
Most of the signs and symptoms associated with the different types of prostates disease are very similar.
- Frequent urination.
- Urge to urinate, even after urinating – bladder may feel like it is not completely empty.
- Awakening at night to urinate.
- Dribbling (urine soils clothing after urinating).
- Incontinence (cannot control urination).
- Pain or burning upon urination.
- Prolonged urination.
- Difficulty urinating.
- Erectile dysfunction.
- Pain in the pelvic area/groin region.
If there is any blood in the urine or severe weight loss, you should see your doctor immediately.
Enlarged Prostate (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia/BPH)
This is also sometimes referred to as benign prostatic hypertrophy. It is common after the age of 40 years as the prostate gradually increases in size. It may affect as many as 50% of men over the age of 60 years. This type of enlargement is not due to cancer but the enlargement affects the flow of urine. It is chronic and may only pose a problem in episodes where the symptoms are severe and even require hospitalization.
In persistent cases, your doctor may have to consider surgical removal of the prostate gland (transurethral resection of the prostate).
The symptoms of BPH and prostate cancer are very similar and your doctor may need to do further tests to differentiate between the two conditions. A blood test known as a PSA (prostate specific antigen) is a good marker for prostate cancer and a biopsy and CT scan may also be conducted.
Prostate cancer can cause significant pain, not only upon urination, and it may affect the pelvic area, back and groin. Weight loss, persistent bleeding upon urination and almost complete obstruction of urine flow should alert you to the possibility of prostate cancer.
It is advisable for men over the age of 40 years to have regular check ups with their family doctor or a urologist, especially if there is a history of prostate cancer. Surgical removal of the prostate is usually necessary and other cancer treatments may also be instituted. There is always the possibility of spread (metastases) so early diagnosis of prostate cancer is very important.
Inflammation of the prostate may be acute (short term) or chronic (long term – constant or episodic). It may be caused by bacteria linked to a urinary tract infection (UTI). At other times, the inflammation may not be linked to any microorganism. Extreme pain upon urinating, frequent urination and groin pain are the most common features and there may also be some bleeding.
Prostatitis should not be ignored. While it is not as serious as prostate cancer, it can cause significant damage to the prostate and surrounding organs if left untreated.