When Should I Worry About...

Prostate Problems: Why You Shouldn't Ignore Them

Jan. 27, 2020

Most men don't start thinking about their prostate until they begin experiencing problems with it. The prostate is a walnut-shaped gland under a man's bladder that plays a critical role in the male reproductive system. But, given its location, changes in the prostate gland can affect other important functions — like urination.

"Prostate problems can include a frequent need to urinate, painful urination and incomplete emptying of the bladder," says Dr. Brian Miles, urologist at Houston Methodist.

Prostate problems can be serious. The three most common prostate problems men face include:

  • Prostatitis
  • Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or enlarged prostate
  • Prostate cancer


How is prostatitis treated?

Prostatitis is prostate inflammation usually caused by infection. It's a fairly common condition that can lead to difficulty passing urine, as well as sexual problems.

Prostatitis is typically treated with antibiotics, with the duration of treatment extending two weeks or more in some cases — depending on whether the infection is sudden or chronic. Anti-inflammatory medication, as well as medications that relax prostate muscle tissue, may also be recommended to ease urine passage.

How is BPH treated?

Many men experience prostate enlargement as they age. The condition can cause a squeezing of the urethra, as well as bladder weakening, which can leave urine in the bladder.

Although BPH is not cancerous, many of its symptoms are similar to those of prostate cancer. And, BPH can lead to life-disrupting and life-threatening problems, such as:

  • Voiding difficulty
  • Bladder or kidney infections
  • Urinary blockages
  • Kidney failure


Lifestyle changes, such as limiting alcohol or caffeine, can lessen BPH symptoms. Medication, or sometimes surgery, may be recommended to ease discomfort and urine flow issues. In some cases, noninvasive options can be considered, including:

  • Green light laser procedures
  • Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP)
  • Button procedure


How is prostate cancer treated?

Prostate cancer can slowly grow and never cause symptoms or threaten a man's health. Or, it can aggressively attack and require treatment.

How prostate cancer is treated depends on the tumor's location, whether the cancer has spread, the man's age and his overall health. Treatment options include:

  • Watchful waiting and symptom monitoring
  • Surgical removal of the prostate gland
  • High-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) treatment
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Testosterone-blocking hormone therapy


Side effects of prostate cancer treatment can include bladder control issues, so men should talk to their doctors before making a treatment decision.

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