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Sharp Health News

What is an enlarged prostate?

June 1, 2022

Senior man with grandson

The prostate — a chestnut-sized gland located at the base of the penis, below the bladder and surrounding the urethra — is part of the male reproductive system. It helps make semen, the fluid that contains sperm, which is expelled from the penis during ejaculation.

As men age, it’s typical for the prostate to grow bigger. This noncancerous condition is called benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), BPH is the most common prostate issue in men over age 50.

Persistent need to urinate and other symptoms
An enlarged prostate can press against the urethra — the tube where urine travels from the bladder to the penis — and other nearby organs, causing a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Urge to urinate often
  • Urinating often (eight or more times a day)
  • Difficulty urinating or delay in starting urination
  • Feeling like you cannot completely empty your bladder
  • Dribbling of urine at the end of urination
  • Accidentally urinating
  • Pain while urinating or during ejaculation
  • Urine has a strange color or smell

Most men with an enlarged prostate may not develop any serious complications. But if symptoms are present, it’s best to see a primary care doctor to ensure they are not due to more serious issues, such as bladder or kidney damage, prostate cancer or inflammation.

Shrinking an enlarged prostate
Even without serious complications, BPH symptoms can be bothersome. There are medications, such as 5-alpha reductase inhibitors and alpha-inhibitors, to help shrink the prostate and relieve symptoms.

There are also procedures, such as the UroLift, to keep an enlarged prostate from pressing on the urethra. Aquablation therapy, another treatment option, uses water to remove prostate tissue, thereby reducing the size of the prostate.

Lifestyle changes can help
To ease symptoms and prevent BPH from worsening, research shows that diet and exercise might be helpful. According to a Harvard University study, men who reported being more physically active were less likely to have BPH. Even low to moderate activity, such as walking daily, was beneficial.

Avoiding red meat and following a low-fat diet is also recommended. A study in the journal Nutrients suggests that consuming a Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables, fruits, fish, nuts and legumes can also improve BPH symptoms.

While an enlarged prostate is part of the male aging process, it doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. With the help of a doctor to expertly address symptoms through treatment and healthy lifestyle habits, people can enjoy life’s journey without always having to look for a rest stop.

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