The Prostate Gland
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that is a part of the male reproductive system. The gland is made of two lobes, enclosed by an outer layer of tissue. The prostate is located in front of the rectum and just below the bladder, where urine is stored. It surrounds the urethra - the canal which urine passes out of the body. One of its main function is squeezing fluid (that energizes the sperm and makes the vaginal canal less acidic) into the urethra as sperm move through during sexual climax.

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia

It is common for the prostate gland to become enlarged. It is called as “benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH” and is very common in older men. BPH affects 40 percent of men in their 50s and 90 percent of men in their 80s. If the enlarged gland begins to press upon the urethra and to interfere with urination system, then treatment may be needed.

As a man matures, the prostate goes through two main periods of growth. The first occurs early in puberty and it doubles in size. At around age 25, growth of the gland begins again. Second phase often results, years later, in BPH.
As the prostate expands, the layer of tissue surrounding stops it from further expanding, causing the gland pressure against the urethra. The bladder wall becomes thicker and irritable, and begins to contract even when it contains small amounts of urine, causing more frequent urination. Eventually, the bladder get weaker and loses the ability to empty itself, thus some of the urine stays in the bladder. The narrowing of the urethra and partial emptying of the bladder cause many of the problems associated with BPH.

Many people feel uncomfortable talking about the prostate, since the gland plays a role in both sex and urination. Still, prostate enlargement is as common a part of aging as gray hair.

Symptoms of BPH

The enlargement of prostate gland doesn't usually cause problems until late in life. BPH rarely causes symptoms before age 40, but more than half of men in their sixties and about 90 % in their seventies and eighties have some symptoms of BPH.

The symptoms of BPH vary, but the most common ones involve changes or problems with urination, such as
- a hesitant, interrupted, weak stream
- urgency and leaking or dribbling
- more frequent urination, especially at night

The size of the prostate does not always determine how severe the symptoms are. Some men with greatly enlarged glands have little obstruction and few symptoms while others, whose glands are less enlarged, have more blockage and greater problems.
Sometimes men may not know they have any obstruction until suddenly find themselves not capable of urinate at all. This condition is called acute urinary retention and may be triggered by taking over-the-counter cold or allergy medicines.

Remember ! It is important to tell your doctor about urinary problems. Eight out of 10 cases, these symptoms suggest BPH, but they also can signal other, more serious such as prostate cancer, which can be ruled out by the examination.
Severe BPH can cause serious problems over time. They include:
- urinary tract infections,
- bladder or kidney damage,
- bladder stones,
- incontinence (the inability to control urination).

Causes of BPH

The cause of BPH is not well defined and understood. Through men’s lives, men produce both testosterone, an important male hormone, and small amounts of estrogen. As men mature the amount of active testosterone in the blood decreases, leaving a higher proportion of estrogen. Studies have shown that higher amount of estrogen in the gland increases the activity of substances that promote cell growth.

Another theory focuses on dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a substance derived from testosterone in the prostate, which may help control its growth. Some research has indicated that even with a drop in the blood's testosterone level, older men continue to produce and accumulate high levels of DHT in the prostate. This accumulation may encourage the growth of cells. Scientists have also noted that men who do not produce DHT do not develop BPH.

Some researchers suggest that BPH may develop as a result of “instructions” given to cells early in life.

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