What is the prostate gland and what does it do?
The prostate gland is part of the male reproductive system and is anatomically located immediately below the bladder and in front of the rectum (see diagram below). A typical adult prostate is around the shape and size of a walnut and surrounds the urethra, which is the tube that runs through the penis and provides a route for urine and semen to leave the body.
The prostate gland is responsible for producing a fluid that nourishes, lubricates and protects the sperm cells found in the semen. The prostate gland’s activity is regulated primarily by a male hormone known as testosterone which is produced in the testes.
What happens to the prostate as I get older?
As you get older, the cells in the prostate multiply, causing the prostate to enlarge. The most common cause of prostate enlargement is referred to as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). The exact cause of BPH is unknown, but is thought to be due to a hormonal imbalance that men experience as they age.
Furthermore, BPH is not uncommon. According to information from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), 40% of men over 50 years old and 90% of men over 80 have BPH.
What are the symptoms of an enlarged prostate?
As the prostate enlarges, it begins to gradually compress the urethra and restrict urine flow from the bladder, which leads to a set of symptoms referred to as lower urinary tract symptoms or LUTS for short. The symptoms are briefly described below.
- Frequency: The need to urinate an abnormally large number of times per day (usually urinating once every hour or two hours).
- Urgency: A sudden and overwhelming urge to urinate. You may find yourself having to rush to the toilet immediately.
- Nocturia: Waking up one or more times to urinate during the night.
- Weak/slow urine stream: You may notice your urine stream is not as powerful as before.
- Intermittency: An intermittent urine stream. You may notice that your urine stream starts and stops.
- Straining: You may feel the need to strain during urination to start or maintain a good urine flow.
- Emptying incompletely: After passing urine, you may have the sensation that there is still more urine to dispel.
- Terminal dribbling: You may experience or discover that urine leaks after you have finished urinating. This may present as stains in your underwear.
A useful mnemonic to remember the above symptoms is FUN WISE(t).
It is important to note that not all men with prostate enlargement will have symptoms. It is possible to have all, some or none of the above symptoms. If you do experience symptoms, it is crucial to think about how these are affecting your life.
Where can I get more information about the prostate?
You can access more in-depth information about the prostate and associated conditions by visiting the following websites:
– Prostate Cancer UK: https://prostatecanceruk.org/prostate-information
If you would like to discuss your concerns or find out more about the prostate including further medical tests and investigations, please do not hesitate to book an appointment with one of our Gogodoc GPs here
Nerd, A., 2014. 32 Label Male Reproductive System Quiz. [online] Labels Database 2020. Available at: <https://otrasteel.blogspot.com/2014/04/32-label-male-reproductive-system-quiz.html> [Accessed 16 February 2021].