The Prostate and Its Symptoms
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland found only in men. It sits just below the bladder and surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine through the penis. The prostate's job is to make fluid for semen.
The prostate grows naturally with age, usually without problems. In some men, the enlarged prostate compresses the urethra, making urination difficult and causing benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH symptoms include:
- Urinating frequently, especially at night
- Difficulty getting a urine stream going
- Feeling as if you are unable to get all the urine out
Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate, often caused by bacteria. Think of prostatitis as a type of men's urinary tract infection. Prostate infection is rarely serious, but if you have symptoms of prostatitis, see your doctor. Possible symptoms include:
Prostate cancer often has no symptoms. It is often discovered after screening with a lab test called prostate specific antigen (PSA). Occasionally, prostate cancer can cause obstruction of urine flow, like BPH. This symptom usually suggests more advanced prostate cancer.
How Can I Prevent Prostate Problems?
In some ways, prostate problems, particularly BPH, are a natural part of growing older. Still, there are specific steps you can take to keep your prostate healthy.
- A diet low in saturated fat and high in fruits and vegetables may lower your risk of developing BPH. Research is ongoing to identify who might benefit from early treatment to prevent BPH.
- According to the American Cancer Society, most cases of prostate cancer can't be prevented. This is because prostate cancer's causes are still unknown. As with BPH, however, experts recommend eating a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.
- No herbal supplements have been proven to prevent prostate cancer. Studies of selenium, a mineral that has shown some promise, are underway. Trials for drugs to prevent prostate cancer are also ongoing.
- No activity or drug is known to prevent prostatitis. Experts recommend good hygiene, including keeping the penis clean. Most men will never develop prostatitis.