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Prostate Problems in Elderly Men

To many men, age is almost a guarantee of having to face prostate problems. And understandably so with more than 1 out of 3 men experiencing prostate problems after the age of 50 years and up to 9 out of 10 by the age of 85 years. There are three main problems that may affect the prostate, with enlargement that is not cancerous being the most common.To most men the prostate is of little consideration in early adulthood and middle age but it is constantly playing an essential role in the male reproductive function.

The prostate is a gland that is located just under the bladder in men. It has a female equivalent known as the Skene’s or paraurethral glands. The prostate gland in men is about the size of a walnut and the urethra runs through it. A fluid is secreted from the gland helps sperm reach the egg cell during ejaculation and contributes to the overall semen.

Types of Prostate Problems

There are three main prostate problems known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlargement), prostatitis (inflammation) and prostate cancer (malignancy). Of these three, it is benign prostatic hyperplasia that is the most common. The symptoms of these prostate problems are largely the same and includes :

  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Frequent urge to urinate often small amounts
  • Straining to urinate
  • Inability to urinate at times
  • Dribbling of urine after urinating
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Pain when ejaculating
  • Lower abdominal, pelvic, back and thigh pain

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)

In BPH the prostate enlarges as there is greater tissue growth often associated with certain male hormones. It rarely occurs in younger men but is extremely common after the age of 60. This enlargement presses against the bladder and compresses the urethra running through the prostate. By doing so, there is varying degrees of urinary restriction giving rise to the discomfort associated with BPH. Although it is a non-cancerous tissue growth, BPH needs to be monitored closely as the symptoms of prostate cancer are largely similar.

Prostatitis

Inflammation of the prostate gland is known as prostatitis and can also affect younger men. It may occur for any number of reasons but by the far the most common cause is a bacterial infection. With acute prostatitis, the symptoms are intense but it is easily treated with medication and will quickly resolve. In most instances it will not recur again or at least not for a very long time. However, in chronic prostatitis there is repeated infections where the symptoms may be milder than in acute pancratitis but tends to last for longer periods of time. This can cause several complications that can permanently affect the prostate and surrounding structures.

Prostate Cancer

In prostate cancer, certain cells of the prostate gland become abnormal and multiply rapidly thereby infiltrating surrounding healthy tissue. It is also known as a malignant tumor and will continue to grow and destroy tissue eventually extending beyond the prostate gland. Some cancers are more rapidly growing, others slower. However, if left untreated, prostate cancer can be fatal. Sometimes the cancer does not start in the prostate but elsewhere in the body and then spreads to various sites including the  prostate in which case it is known as secondary or metastatic cancer.

Avoiding Prostate Problems in the Senior Years

There are no specific measures for avoiding prostate problems particularly with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) which is largely age-related. Another important consideration is sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) which can be a risk factor for more chronic prostate problems. These diseases can be prevented by using proper protection during sexual activity and maintaining faithful relationships. If it does occur, the infection should be treated immediately by a medical doctor as delaying treatment can lead to complications.

Any man with a family history of prostate problems should go for regular prostate screening after the age of 40 years. Identifying any symptoms as early as possible and seeking medical attention can also greatly minimize the extent of the condition. The problem, however, is that in the early stages of conditions such as prostate cancer there may be no symptoms. Stopping cigarette smoking, regulating alcohol intake and maintaining good health with a balanced diet and regular exercise goes a long way in preventing many medical conditions including prostate problems.


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