Men's Health Month: All About Your Prostate

Men, if you’re waking up in the middle of the night and struggling to go to the bathroom, the culprit may be a mysterious and often misunderstood gland.

“A lot of men don’t really understand what the prostate gland does,” says Brian Nicholson, MD, a urologist at Covenant Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas. “Your prostate is not a vital organ, but it is important for reproduction. This gland lies at the base of the opening to the bladder. It functions to make fluid that protects and nourishes sperm. If you’re a young man, a normal-sized prostate is about the size of a walnut. Your prostate continues to grow as you get older, just like your ears and your nose, and as it gets bigger, it can lead to problems with urination – especially if you are 50 or older.”

The risk of prostate enlargement – known as benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH – increases as men get older. By age 60, half of men will have some symptoms. Ninety percent of men age 85 have symptoms.

BPH is the most common prostate problem in men, Dr. Nicholson says. Almost all men will develop some level of enlargement of the prostate as they get older, whether they have noticeable symptoms or not, Dr. Nicholson says.

“Because the prostate gland surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine outside the body, it can interfere with urination. The enlargement blocks the urethra,” Dr. Nicholson says.

Symptoms of an enlarged prostate include:

  • Slowness or dribbling of your urinary stream
  • Difficulty with starting urination
  • Frequent urination
  • A sudden need to urinate
  • A need to get up at night to urinate

If your symptoms are interfering with your quality of life – perhaps you can’t get a good night’s sleep because you get up too often to go to the bathroom – it may be time to talk to your doctor. Your doctor may refer you to a urologist.

“As symptoms progress, some men develop bladder infections, bladder stones and overactive bladder symptoms such as an urgent need to use the bathroom” Dr. Nicholson says. “Evaluation of men with suspected BPH involves an interview and a physical exam that includes a rectal exam to estimate the size of the prostate gland. It is important to rule out more dangerous conditions such as prostate cancer.”

Evaluation may include a prostate ultrasound or cystoscopy, a visual inspection of the degree of blockage with a small scope, to confirm the diagnosis. There are a variety of treatment options that include watchful waiting, medications, minimally invasive procedures, and surgery.

“Patients with mild symptoms often do not require treatment,” Dr. Nicholson says. “The first step in getting help with any of these issues is seeing your doctor. Some men are embarrassed but there is no reason to be. This is an extremely common problem and there is a lot we can do to help patients with BPH to improve their quality of life.”

For more information about Covenant Medical Center, please click here. For more information about Dr. Nicholson, please click here.


This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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