The most common conditions affecting the prostate are prostatitis, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), and prostate cancer. As a precaution, all urinary symptoms should be checked by a doctor.
The prostate is a gland found only in men. It is about the size of a walnut, lies just below the bladder and surrounds the tube that drains urine from the bladder (urethra). Its job is to secrete a milky fluid, which becomes part of the semen and nourishes the sperm.
The main conditions affecting the prostate are:
- Prostatitis, which is inflammation of the prostate, usually due to an infection, which will likely need antibiotic treatment.
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which is a gradual enlargement of the prostate as men age. It often causes urinary problems but is not due to cancer.
- Prostate cancer, which is a malignancy which can be life-threatening, particularly if it spreads beyond the prostate. However, in older men prostate cancer is often slow growing and may not require treatment.
Prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate gland, which is often caused by urinary tract infection. It usually affects younger men.
Prostatitis usually results from blockage or irritation of some of the ducts within the prostate gland. The cause may be a due to a physical problem, an infection (e.g. sexually transmitted infections such as Chlamydia) or as a complication of a urinary infection.
Symptoms of prostatitis may include:
- painful, burning or frequent urination
- weak urine flow or incomplete emptying
- fever and chills
- low back pain.
Diagnosis and treatment of prostatitis
Your doctor may feel your prostate through your rectum (digital rectal examination), to check if your prostate is tender, and take blood or urine samples to test for infection. If you have prostatitis, you may need antibiotic treatment. Take the medication for as long as it is prescribed, to stop the infection recurring.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a normal, gradual enlargement of the prostate caused by hormonal effects. It usually starts in middle age. BPH does not lead to cancer.
Read more about benign prostatic hyperplasia
In New Zealand, around 3000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. Prostate cancer occurs less commonly than BPH, and it is usually slow-growing.
There are usually no symptoms of early prostatic cancer. In older men prostatic cancer is usually slow to develop and if the cancer does not spread beyond the prostate it may not be life-threatening.
When prostate cancer does occur in younger men, both diagnosis and treatment outcomes are improved the earlier it is brought to the doctor's attention.
Read more about prostate cancer