What problems can an enlarged prostate cause?

The urethra, the tube that transports urine out of the body, runs through the prostate gland. When the prostate becomes enlarged, it can increase to the size of a tennis ball, squeezing the urethra so that less urine can pass through. This has a number of effects within the body. First, urination becomes more difficult, meaning the person has to strain and has less control when urinating. Second, the bladder might never drain all the way, making its walls stretch so much that it becomes hard to control and causing bladder stones to form. Problems in the bladder can in turn damage the kidneys due to the added stress placed on them. In some extreme cases, the flow of urine might become blocked, causing significant abdominal pain.

Many men have an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia [BPH]) and don't know it, but sometimes the swelling causes problems. Because the prostate wraps around the urethra, as it grows it can close like a fist, squeezing the urethra. This typically causes the bladder to fill up too much, while at the same time making it harder to empty the bladder fully. The most common consequence is frequent waking during the night to pee.

That may sound like a minor problem, but it's not. The frequent waking interrupts sleep, and as a nation, we're sleep-deprived enough as it is. Sleep is one of the most important ingredients of a person's overall health, so it's important to treat BPH if it's causing a problem.
An enlarged prostate can lead to symptoms of increased urinary frequency from the loss of the ability to get the bladder totally empty. It may also lead to a weak urine stream or difficulty in initiating urination. In very rare cases, an enlarged prostate can lead to the inability to urinate due to total or near total obstruction of the urethra. This may lead to urine infections or cause urine to back up into the kidneys. Because there are multiple treatments for an enlarged prostate, you should consult with your doctor if you have symptoms.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.