By John Colen M.D.
Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men. Understandably, there’s a good deal of information about regular screenings and emphasis on the importance of early detection and treatment. However, cancer is only one condition that affects the prostate. Prostatitis and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) are two other diseases of the prostate gland.
When there is swelling and inflammation of the prostate, it can cause painful or difficult urination and pain in the pelvic area, genitals, and groin. Typically, this swelling and inflammation is caused by a bacterial infection, which can find its way into the prostate via urine leaks. Common among men of all ages, this condition, known as prostatitis, might also be caused by nerve damage in the lower urinary tract – although acute bacterial prostatitis is more common.
In addition to these symptoms, patients who have prostatitis might also experience frequent urination or the urgent need to urinate, cloudy urine or urine that contains blood, painful ejaculation, pain in the lower back or abdomen, and even flu-like symptoms. If you’re noticing any of these symptoms, it’s time to see your doctor. The bacterial infection needs to be addressed as soon as possible to avoid further complications such as bacterial infections of the blood, inflammation of the epididymis, abscesses, or semen abnormalities and infertility.
Typically, prostatitis is treated with antibiotics, alpha blockers to help ease pain, and anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). In severe cases, intravenous (IV) antibiotics may be needed.
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)
The prostate goes through two main growth phases in a lifetime; first early on in puberty, and the second around age 25. Sometimes, the prostate keeps growing and gets larger than it should. When this happens, it’s called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or more commonly, enlarged prostate. An enlarged prostate can be the cause of issues that arise as men get older. In fact, the condition is common, affecting about 50 percent of all men between the ages of 51 and 60.
Up to 90 percent of men older than 80 reportedly have BPH. As the prostate grows and gets larger than it should, it squeezes down on the urethra. Over time, this leads to the bladder wall becoming thicker and weakening the bladder. It can also cause problems when urinating, specifically, not allowing the bladder to empty all the way. Sufferers will likely notice the frequent or urgent need to urinate, increased frequency of urination at night, a weak urine stream or a stream that stops and then starts, dribbling at the end of urination, or the inability to completely empty the bladder. These issues might lead to other problems, such as urinary tract infections or blood in the urine.
BPH can be treated several ways, depending on the severity and the age of the patient, and can range from medication to minimally invasive surgery. If you’re noticing any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your physician sooner rather than later.
Dr. Colen is a board-certified Urology specialist who cares for patients at Kelsey-Seybold’s Berthelsen Main Campus, Spring Medical and Diagnostic Center, and Tanglewood Clinic. His clinical interests include minimally invasive and robotic surgeries (including robotic-assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomies and partial nephrectomies), the management and treatment of urinary stone disease, benign prostatic hypertrophy, and voiding dysfunction.