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A Guide to Prostate Form and Function and Some Common Problems
The prostate is a gland found in the pelvis. It's responsible for the quality and quantity of seminal fluid, which makes up about 50% of an ejaculate. The prostate also produces some antibodies against pathogens that may enter through ejaculation. This means that it's an integral part of the genital defense.
When is my prostate healthy?
A healthy prostate should be firm and smooth without any lumps or nodules. Prostate cancer is usually diagnosed when the gland has become inflamed or swollen, which can cause pain during urination and impeded continence (the inability to control your bodily functions).
A healthy gland means
It is symmetrical in size and shape. There should be about the same amount of tissue on both sides of the seminal tract. There are no swellings or cysts inside it. If you're able to feel lumps or bumps, there is something wrong with your prostate. Urine easily flows through the urethra when you urinate, and it does not dribble out after urine stops flowing.
What are the common problems?
The most common problems that can cause blockage in the prostate are benign prostatic hyperplasia and Peyronie's disease. Both conditions are common in older men and can cause pain or discomfort during urination, especially when standing up.
Sleep apnea may also occur if you snore or have other breathing problems. These conditions can happen because the prostate is not working properly, blocking the urethra while breathing. This becomes a problem with age and causes difficulty breathing at night or when getting out of bed. You should see a specialist if you have this problem.
What causes these problems?
Prostate problems are often caused by poor diet. The Western diet is usually rich in fats and sugar, with limited fruits and vegetables. This leads to poor-quality seminal fluid, which leads to prostate problems such as prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate) and difficulty in urination.
Another important cause of prostate problems is stress. When stressed out, your urine flow stops for a moment, and pressure builds up inside the bladder. This stresses your bladder muscles and prostate since it's directly connected to your urinary tract through the urethra. Stress also makes your brain think you need to urinate, weakening the bladder.
What is benign prostatic hyperplasia?
The prostate gland is enlarged in benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). A good amount of BPH is average and will not interfere with health. The gland becomes more prominent over time as it ages, which can cause discomfort when standing or urinating. Other symptoms include a change in urine color or a strong urge to pee after sleeping, but these are not life-threatening, and you should consult your doctor about them if they bother you.
What are the causes of BPH?
BPH can be caused by the following −
Non-infectious causes − The most common non-infectious cause is related to aging. This condition occurs when you age and your prostate gland grows larger, putting pressure on your urethral opening and causing a blockage. This can also affect men who have problems with their bladder neck or enlarged prostatic calculi (more about that later). PSA testing can detect this condition; however, it is not always accurate.
Infectious causes − Chronic infections in the prostate can cause BPH. Bacterial prostatitis is one of them; however, it can be treated and cured with antibiotics. Some STDs, such as gonorrhea and donovanosis, can also cause this condition, known as epididymitis.
Problems caused by BPH
When repetitive urination occurs, the body never completely empties the bladder. This leads to a build-up of urine in the bladder, which makes it weak or allows bacteria to get inside, causing cystitis. This, in turn, can cause prostatitis because your bladder meridian runs through your prostate. In addition, if the prostate gland is too large, it can cause incontinence.
When the bladder can't expand properly, pressure builds inside it, causing problems during urination. The bladder muscles become weaker due to this pressure, and you may have to strain to empty your bladder. This causes pain and makes men hold their urine for a long time when standing up for long periods, like during their workday.
What causes BPH?
BPH is usually caused by enlargement and trapping of the gland in your pelvis, resulting in an enlarged prostate that can't be easily emptied and leads to urinary tract problems later on. Overproduction of testosterone, the male hormone, can also cause it.
When the bladder is enlarged, it can't expand properly, and you may have to strain when urinating; also, your bladder muscles become weaker due to this pressure. This reduces your control over urination and leads to incontinence.
What are cysts?
Cysts are fluid-filled sacs that develop inside blood vessels or the body. They often appear on or near the prostate gland and sometimes cause complications, including urethritis (inflammation of the urethra), chronic pelvic pain, enlarged prostatic foot, and obstruction of urine flow into the bladder leading to urinary retention. These cysts can grow as large as a grapefruit and are very painful, especially if they rupture.
What causes prostatic cysts?
Lithogenic cysts (cysts caused by stones) are common in the prostate and back passage and are usually harmless; however, the following factors may make them worse −
It can lead to the build-up of fatty acids in the bloodstream due to poor diet. These fats cause the development of stones in your kidneys and prostate. This can be resolved by eating fresh fruits and vegetables or taking vitamin E supplements. A side effect is that it also clears up many cases of prostatitis.
On a concluding note, the consensus is that the best way to prevent prostate health problems is through healthy eating, exercise, and stress reduction. You can reduce the risk of developing BPH by following a healthy diet with low fat and sugar content, increasing your fiber intake, and exercising regularly. For men in their 30s or 40s, it's also important to get routine PSA tests done as early as possible (at least once every year) to avoid the risk of BPH developing later in life.
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