Prostate Disorders

Prostate Disorders: A Top Men's Health Issue Image

The prostate is a small gland, usually described as “walnut-sized,” that, together with the seminal vesicles, produces the fluid part of semen. It is located just below the bladder and surrounds the urethra, the tube through which urine passes through the penis.

Problems with the prostate are usually connected to aging: the older you are, the more likely your chances of experiencing prostate problems and symptoms. Young men are rarely affected by these disorders.

After age fifty, however, disorders of the gland are among the most common of men’s health complaints. Eighty percent of all prostate cancer diagnoses, for instance, are made after age sixty-five, and by age seventy, ninety percent of all men display at least some symptoms of an enlarged prostate.

Types of Disorders

Prostate problems or symptoms tend to fall into three common categories: prostatitis, or inflammation of the gland; benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which results in an enlarged prostate that can narrow the urethra; and cancer. All three conditions should be referred to a urologist: a doctor who specializes in diseases of the urinary tract. A urologist can explain your treatment options, which may range from drug therapy to surgery.

Frequent Urination and Other Symptoms of Prostate Problems

Symptoms of the three disorders are often very similar, and a urologist can determine which disorder is causing your symptoms. Consult your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • difficulty or pain while urinating
  • burning sensation while urinating
  • pelvic pain
  • frequent urination
  • abdominal pain
  • “dribbling” or incontinence
  • impotence
  • a feeling that your bladder never fully empties
  • a sudden inability to urinate
  • urinary tract infection
  • hematuria and/or anemia
  • nocturia

Terms such as hematuria and nocturia may sound confusing, but you’ll hear them mentioned often in connection with disorders of the gland. Hematuria means that blood is present in the urine. Blood is often detected only by laboratory tests, but occasionally the urine may appear pink or brown.

Nocturia refers to frequent nighttime urination. This frequent urination may wake men from sleep several times a night, and can cause sleep deprivation.

Sexual Function and Impotence

Certain prostate treatments can result in impotence, a fact that scares many men away from seeking treatment. The fear of possible impotence can result in men denying their symptoms and putting off treatment.

While some treatments carry the risk of erectile dysfunction, other treatments are much safer. The treatment of choice depends, in part, on the nature of the disorder and its severity. Without treatment, BPH, cancer and other prostate disorders can result in impotence themselves, so you should seek medical assistance if you suspect you have a problem.

Resources

National Institutes of Health. (nd). Understanding prostate changes: A health guide for all men. Retrieved January 19, 2003, from www.pueblo.gsa.gov/cic_text/health/prost-change/prost-ch.htm.

National Institute on Aging. (1994). Prostate problems. Retrieved January 19, 2003, from www.aoa.gov/aoa/pages/agepages/prostate.html.

National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. (2002). Prostate enlargement: Benign prostatic hyperplasia. Retrieved January 19, 2003, from www.niddk.nih.gov/health/urolog/pubs/prostate/#common.