February 14, 2016
By The Institute for Natural Healing
A man’s prostate gland varies greatly in size throughout his life. In childhood it remains small until puberty. At the onset of puberty it quickly grows, stopping around the age of 20. A normal adult prostate gland weighs two-thirds to three-quarters of an ounce.
It is triangular shaped. The dimensions are about 1.6 x 1 x 1.2 inches. A man’s prostate typically is stable in size until middle age unless he is afflicted with a medical condition that affects the gland. Around age 40, things often begin to change. In many men, the prostate begins to enlarge with age.
Some men with an enlarged prostate have no symptoms. For others, the condition, called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH, is life-changing.
The prostate gland surrounds the urethra. This is the tube that carries urine from the bladder out through the tip of the penis. As the prostate grows bigger, it may put pressure on the urethra.
This can cause the urethra to become narrow or even close. The result is that some men with prostate enlargement can have trouble with urination. They may feel like they need to urinate, but are unable to do so. Or they may be unable to empty their bladder entirely.
For many men, sleepless nights result because the feeling of having to urinate—and then not being able to do so—keeps them awake.
This condition is very common. In fact, prostate enlargement may be the most common health problem in men over 60 years of age.
By the age of 50 years, half of men have an enlarged prostate. By the ages of 60-70, about 65% of men are affected by BPH. By age 80, approximately 80% of men are affected by this condition.
The prostate gland is normally about the size of walnut. However, in a man suffering from BPH, the gland grows four or five times its normal size. This enlargement causes other changes to occur outside the prostate.
In the early stage of BPH, the bladder muscle becomes thicker. It does so because it needs to become stronger to force urine through the narrowed urethra caused by a swollen prostate. The bladder must contract more powerfully to allow the man to urinate.
As it grows thicker, the bladder muscle may become more sensitive. This causes a sensation of needing to urinate more frequently.
How does the prostate grow larger? It’s due to an increase in the number of cells. Doctors refer to this process as hyperplasia. However, the precise reason for this increase in prostate cells is unknown.
A variety of factors may be involved. Researchers believe that it may be a process involving androgens (male hormones), estrogens (female hormones), growth factors, and other cell signaling pathways.
As the prostate gets bigger and the urethra is closed more tightly, the bladder might not be able to fully compensate. This means it cannot completely empty.
As a result, some men suffer from repeated urinary tract infections. Bladder and/or kidney damage can also occur.
It may also cause a sudden loss of the ability to urinate, a condition called acute urinary retention. This is a medical emergency that can lead to organ damage and even death if untreated. To check for an enlarged prostate, a doctor typically performs a digital rectal exam.