Although there is much talk about the prostate and how it can affect men’s health, few people actually know where it is or what it does. Prostate diseases can cause problems for men, especially for those over the age of 40, but when caught early, they are usually quite treatable and non-life-threatening.
The prostate is a small gland, located in the pelvic area. It is technically a part of your reproductive organs and is responsible for the production of as much as three-quarters of the fluids that make up your semen. As a boy enters puberty, the gland will start to grow quickly and then, once he reaches adulthood, it will all but stop.
Once a man reaches the age of forty, though, his prostate will start to grow again and likely never stop expanding. Although about 50% of men will never have a problem with their larger prostate, the other half will develop some form of prostate disease. The prostate can be felt during a rectal exam, meaning that a routine prostate exam ranks pretty low on most men’s list of things to do. When measured against the pain and risk of death from advanced prostate disease, however, the prospect of a brief medical exam should start to look at least a little bit less horrifying.
One of the most common diseases of the prostate is benign prostatic hyperplasia, also known as BPH or an enlarged prostate. This is a condition that can make it difficult or uncomfortable to urinate and create a frequent and urgent need to go to the bathroom. It’s not a cancerous condition and is usually more of a source of discomfort than anything else, but in severe cases it can lead to incontinence or bladder stones.
The most common cancer in men is of the prostate, but due to its slow growth prostate cancer is far less often a killer of the men that it affects. Normally, this is a very treatable form of cancer when detected early. Signs are similar to those of BPH but they may also include blood in the semen or urine and chronic pain in the thighs or midsection.
Finally, prostatitis is when the prostate becomes inflamed due to infection, muscle spasms, or unknown causes. There is both bacterial and non-bacterial prostatitis and research is ongoing into how and why this gland becomes irritated, as well as ways to alleviate the problem. While prostatitis can sometimes be difficult to diagnose, once it is, it is usually easily treatable.
Although the prostate is only a little larger than a walnut, this crucial little gland can create big problems if left unchecked. By staying vigilant with regular visits to your doctor and paying attention to the signs that your body sends you, you can mitigate the risk that prostate disease will impact you.