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Enlarged Prostate Symptoms: Help Make the Pinching Go Away

Updated on November 11, 2010

What Is A Prostate?

As men grow older they become more prone to suffering from an enlarged prostate. This article will explain what an enlarged prostate is, the symptoms to be aware of, and the treatments that are available.

To begin our article, we must first know what a prostate is. The prostate is a gland found in males which surrounds the urethra and produces the fluid that carries sperm during ejaculation. As you might guess, an enlarged prostate is one that has grown beyond normal size. Older men are more likely to suffer with this malady, with as many as 90% of all males over 80 showing symptoms.

Of course, one need not be a senior citizen to experience the symptoms, which is why all men should bookmark this article, in case they find themselves starting to show the symptoms.

What Happens When Your Prostrate Grows Too Large?

An enlarged prostate places pressure on the urethra, which is used to remove fluid waste from the body. You can visualize this by pushing a straw into water and then placing your finger over one end of it. As you lift the straw out of the water, a column of liquid will remain in the straw, and when you lift your finger from the end of the straw the fluid falls back into the glass. This is how a normal urethra operates.

Now, fill the straw with water again. This time, pinch the bottom of the straw and lift your finger from the top. You will see that very little water flows out of the straw. This occurs when the prostate pinches the bottom of the urethra.

Fill the straw one more time, but this time pinch it in the middle. You will see some of the fluid fall out, but some will remain in the straw. This is what happens when the urethra is pinched up higher. And, of course, if pinched at different places there is either a larger or smaller limitation to the amount of fluid that falls out of the straw. This is what happens when an enlarged prostate pinches the urethra.

Symptoms Of An Enlarged Prostrate

The most common symptoms of an enlarged prostrate are the inability to urinate or dribbling at the end of urination. Another frequent symptom is an inability to complete empty your bladder. However, sometimes an enlarged prostate has the opposite effect, causing a male to urinate more frequently or uncontrollably.

By remembering our straw analogy above, we can more easily how the different symptoms occur. Every symptom falls into one of several categories:

  • Inability to urinate properly
  • Urinating frequently
  • Uncontrollably urinating
  • Pain and/or blood while urinating

Each symptom is produced by the prostate pinching the urethra in a different way, but understanding the analogy helps one discover the symptoms - and if you experience any of these symptoms on a frequent basis then you should be scheduling a visit with your doctor for an examination.

The Prostate Examination

Typically, a doctor will perform a digital rectum exam to check for an enlarged prostrate. I won't go into the details, other than to say it involves the doctor poking around with a finger in a place you probably don't want him to. Relax, its usually only a minor discomfort and only takes a moment.

Your doctor might also order a urinalysis and some other tests, based on determining what is interfering with the proper flow of urine out of your body. Remember, tests are bad ... persistent health issues are worse. As such, agree to any tests necessary so your doctor can diagnose you properly.

What Further Complications Could Occur?

An enlarge prostrate, over time, could lead to urinary tract infections, an inability to urinate, kidney damage, kidney stones, and blood in the urine. None of these issues bode well for your health, so it makes sense to be treated for the minor symptoms before you get to the point where you experience the major ones.

An enlarged prostate won't go away - it will only become larger over time. That's why it's important to know the symptoms and to visit your doctor when you begin experiencing them. Remember, the earlier your doctor diagnoses your symptoms, the quicker they can diagnose you and get you back to good health. Also, earlier detection will mean less complications in dealing with the issue.

What Causes An Enlarged Prostate?

The causes are unknown, but as a male grows older his odds greatly increase of developing this issue. It's even been said that every male will develop this complication if he lives long enough, though this hasn't been absolutely proven. As such, it's best to view an enlarged prostrate as a function of aging and to understand it could happen to any male as he grows older.

It's also important to note that there is nothing you can do to prevent an enlarged prostate except to have the testicles removed, which is an extreme preventive measure for a complication that might not arise for another 30 years. Trust me, it's far better to wait until the symptoms occur before seeking treatment.

Treatment For An Enlarged Prostate? (mild symptoms)

The severity of the symptoms determines the method of treatment, which is why it's important to seek a doctor as soon as the symptoms consistently present themselves. Better yet ... and this tip is for you men over 40 ... have yourself checked every year, as your odds of getting an enlarge prostate increase with age. As such, an ounce of prevention can easily become a pound of cure.

If your symptoms are mild, your doctor might recommend some methods of self treatment which may include:

  • avoidance of alcohol and caffeine
  • urinate when you first get the urge to do so - try to urinate before going on long trips
  • when sick, try to stay away from decongestants and antihistamines as they can aggravate your condition
  • drink fluids sparingly during the day - limit your intake to a flew fluid ounces at a time
  • exercise regularly and bundle up when it's cold as cold weather and inactivity aggravate the symptoms as well

Treatment For An Enlarged Prostate? (more serious symptoms)

In more serious cases the doctor might prescribe alpha-1 blockers, finasteride, dutasteride, or antibiotics. Be sure to take any medications as prescribed. There are also some internet sites that recommend an herb called saw palmetto, but there is no medically backed proof yet that this actually works, and it might be more a placebo effect than an actual cure.

As a final solution, your doctor might recommend surgery. Typical recommended surgeries are:

  • TURP - Transurethral Resection of the Prostate - this involves sending a scope through the penis and removing the prostate piece by piece
  • TUIP - Transurethral Incision of the Prostate - same as above, but a slit is made in the prostate to relieve the pressure
  • Simple Prostatectomy - an incision is made through the abdomen and the inner part of the prostate gland is removed. Unlike the two previous in-and-out procedures, this one can can often require a 5-10 day stay in the hospital.

TURP is the best procedure, but be aware that using a less invasive procedure can cause the symptoms to return on 5-10 years.

Robot-guided Prostatectomy is another option, but the technology isn't widely available and not all surgeons are skilled in this procedure. Also, this is a very new procedure, so it's success rate isn't yet known.

Your doctor might discuss other treatment procedures with you as they become available. Be sure to ask the pros and cons of each procedure as no procedure is without its inherent risks and possible failures.

Your Health Is Important

It goes without saying that your health is highly important, but many of us have an aversion to receiving treatment and this often makes things worse. That's why you need to be aware of the symptoms and be willing to see a doctor when they become consistent. Ignoring symptoms won't make them go away and treating them early will lessen the treatment needed to make your condition improve. As such, don't gamble on your health. See a doctor when symptoms arise and allow them to determine the severity of your condition.

Remember ... your health is the one nugget of gold that you might get to keep, provided you are willing to care for it. Here's to good health!

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    • milynch43 profile image

      milynch43 8 years ago from Philippines

      Thanks for the informative Hub. I had a friend who had this procedure. While I cringe at the thought he said he said it wasn’t that bad and the results were well worth it.

    • profile image

      steve rensch 8 years ago

      You've been serving me. Thanks.

    • yoshi97 profile image

      yoshi97 8 years ago from a land called 'what if?'

      Thanks! I try to research these things out as much as I can before writing them. :)

    • WRKennedy profile image

      WRKennedy 8 years ago from Canada

      Nice, detailed hub!