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An enlarged prostate is a common problem affecting older men. Literally, it means that the prostate gland, responsible for synthesising fluid that acts as a transporting medium for sperm during ejaculation, grows bigger in size. As the gland grows, it exerts pressure on the urethra and gives rise to urinary and bladder problems. This abnormal growth of the prostate gland is neither cancerous, nor does it increase your risk of suffering from cancer. Yet, it can interfere with the normal process of urination and cause the following symptoms:
1. Slowed start of urine: Urine flow that takes longer to initiate despite the urgent need to expel it. This is one of the early signs of suffering from an enlarged prostate.
2. Weak urine flow: Another early sign of the condition is reduction in the flow and force with which urine flows. Normal or peak flow of urine in young men is considered as 20 ml/second or higher. However, with mild enlargement the urine flow may reduce to 15-20 ml/sec, and further may worsen to 10 ml/second or below with moderate and severe enlargement.
3. Straining to urinate: The tendency of delayed urine flow is called hesitancy. This hesitancy may require you to deliberately push or forcefully initiate the flow of urine, which is nothing but strained urination.
4. Dribbling at the end of urinating: A reduced flow of urine mandates extra involvement of the bladder muscles. Naturally, if the enlarged gland presses against the urethra, the bladder muscles will have to work harder to push the urine through the tube. Initially, the bladder muscles may not be able to function properly. So, some amount of residual urine may be left out in the bladder, which keeps dribbling at the end of urination.
5. Incomplete emptying of your bladder: If the gland has grown much bigger in size, the urethra may get partially blocked, causing incomplete expulsion of the urine. Till the time the bladder muscles gain that strength to push urine through the obstructed area, your bladder may always have some residual urine.
6. Incontinence: Sometimes, urine flow may be intermittent or interrupted. This can also cause unintentional leakage of urine from the urethral opening or a condition called urinary incontinence.
7. Frequent urination at nights: Very often, men with enlarged prostate may have to visit the restroom two, three or even six times in the night to empty the bladder due to the urge to urinate. It is caused due to a combination of factors such as irritation of urethra, presence of residual urine in the bladder and changes in kidney function.
8. Painful urination: An enlarged prostate increases the work load of the bladder muscles. This can cause irritation in the area of the bladder where the urethra actually originates or where it passes through the prostate gland. The irritation coupled with muscle spasms in the bladder can sometimes cause painful urination or dysuria.
9. Strong urge to urinate: Incomplete emptying of the bladder can signal the brain to give you a constant feeling of urination increasing your urge to urinate. This urge may worsen when you drink more fluids.
10. Urinary retention: With complete obstruction of the urethra, you may be unable to urinate despite the urge. This condition is called urinary retention and often indicates severe enlargement of the prostate.
Image source: Getty images
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Challem J. User's Guide to Nutritional Supplements. 1st ed. USA: Basic Health Publications; 2003. 336 p.