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Enlarged Prostate (BPH) FAQs

Reviewed by Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

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Q:The prostate is about the size of a what?

A:Walnut. The prostate is a small organ about the size of a walnut. It lies below the bladder (where urine is stored) and surrounds the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder).

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Q:What is a gland?

A:A group of cells that secrete a substance for use in the body and A group of cells that removes materials from the circulation. A gland has two medical definitions: 1. A group of cells that secrete a substance for use in the body. For example, the thyroid gland. 2. A group of cells that removes materials from the circulation. For example, a lymph gland.

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Q:What is the role of the prostate gland?

A:Makes fluid that nourishes sperm. The prostate gland makes a fluid that helps to nourish sperm. Scientists do not know all of the prostate's functions. One of its main roles is to squeeze fluid into the urethra as sperm move through during sexual climax. This fluid, which helps make up semen, energizes the sperm and makes the vaginal canal less acidic.

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Q:Prostate problems are common in men in their 30s. True or False?

A:False. Prostate problems are common in men age 50 years and older. BPH generally begins in a man's 30s, evolves slowly, and most commonly only causes symptoms after age 50.

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Q:What are symptoms of an enlarged prostate?

A:Urinary tract infections, Obstruction of urine flow and Urinary retention. The medical term for enlarged prostate is benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH causes the prostate gland to grow in size, which may compress the urethra that courses through the center of the prostate. This can impede the flow of urine from the bladder through the urethra to the outside. It can cause urine to back up in the bladder (urinary retention) and increase the need to urinate frequently during the day and night. Other common symptoms include a slow flow of urine, the need to urinate urgently, and difficulty starting the urinary stream. More serious problems include urinary tract infections and complete blockage of the urethra, which may be a medical emergency and can lead to injury of the kidneys.

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Q:An enlarged prostate indicates prostate cancer. True or False?

A:False. An enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH) is completely benign. It is not a precursor to prostate cancer. In addition to BPH, there are other prostate problems that have nothing to do with cancer, such as acute and chronic prostatitis.

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Q:Prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate) is caused by bacteria. True or False?

A:True. Acute bacterial prostatitis is an infection of the prostate that is often caused by some of the same bacteria that cause bladder infections. These include E. coli</i>, Klebsiella, and Proteus. While it may be acquired as a sexually transmitted disease, the infection can also spread to the prostate through the blood stream, directly from an adjacent organ, or as a complication of prostate biopsy. Symptoms of prostatitis can include fever, chills, shakes, urgency and frequency of urination, and painful urination.

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Q:BPH may cause the bladder to what? Strengthen or Weaken?

A:Strengthen. With BPH, the bladder muscle may gradually become stronger, thicker, and overly sensitive. It begins to contract even when it contains small amounts of urine, leading to frequent urination. Eventually, the bladder muscle cannot overcome the effect of the narrowed urethra. Urine remains in the bladder and the bladder does not empty completely.

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Q:A doctor can usually detect an enlarged prostate by what?

A:Rectal exam. Doctors usually detect an enlarged prostate by performing a rectal exam. Medically speaking, the correct term for this type of exam is a digital rectal examination (DRE). This examination is usually the first test done. The doctor inserts a gloved finger into the rectum and feels the part of the prostate next to the rectum. This examination gives the doctor a general idea of the size and condition of the gland. The doctor also may examine the urethra, prostate, and bladder using a cytoscope, an instrument that is inserted through the penis.

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Q:Watchful waiting is considered a treatment for BPH. True or False?

A:True. Watchful waiting is a treatment option often chosen by men who are not bothered by symptoms of BPH. They have no treatment but get regular checkups and wait to see whether or not the condition gets worse. There are many ways to treat BPH, including surgical options and medical treatments with prescription drugs.

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