Male Health

Is an Enlarged Prostate Dangerous?

Oct 22, 2023
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Is an Enlarged Prostate Dangerous?

In most cases, the effects of an enlarged prostate are more frustrating than life-threatening. Sometimes, however, the condition can cause more serious medical concerns and may even signal cancer.

Our specialty team at Gulf Coast Urology in Houston and Nassau Bay, Texas, discusses prostatic enlargement and what it might mean for your overall health.

What causes prostatic enlargement?

Normally about the size and shape of a walnut, the prostate gland is part of the male reproductive system. It sits just below the bladder and produces the fluid contained in semen. The small tube (urethra) that carries urine or semen from the body runs through the center of the prostate.

The gland typically doubles in size during puberty and then begins to enlarge again around age 25. Scientists aren’t sure why this second growth cycle occurs, but it continues throughout a man’s life. It may be due to hormonal changes or other effects of aging.

About 50% of men can expect to develop noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland by age 50. Also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), this condition affects about 90% of men over age 80. Unfortunately, prostatic enlargement may also be a sign of prostate cancer.

What are the symptoms of an enlarged prostate?

As the gland grows, it can pinch off the urethra and disrupt urinary flow. This leads to the symptoms often associated with an enlarged prostate, including:

  • Frequent urination at night (nocturia)
  • Difficulty starting your urine stream
  • Weakened urinary stream
  • Inability to empty your bladder
  • Urinary stream that stops and starts
  • Dribbling at the end of urination
  • Blood in the urine

Most men with BPH don’t develop serious health complications. In some cases, however, it can lead to:

  • Inability to urinate
  • Frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Bladder stones that can eventually cause infection and/or obstruction of urine flow
  • Kidney damage caused by urinary retention or infection

Notably, the symptoms of prostate cancer are very similar to those of BPH. We recommend you come in for an evaluation any time you develop new or concerning urinary symptoms.

What is the treatment for an enlarged prostate?

Treatment typically depends on the severity of your symptoms and the underlying cause of the enlargement.

For BPH, your Gulf Coast provider may recommend:

  • Medication to relax the bladder or prostate muscle
  • Lifestyle changes such as decreased caffeine intake
  • Medication to slow the growth of the prostate gland

Worsening symptoms that significantly interfere with your quality of life may respond best to minimally invasive surgery to widen the urethra or remove excess prostate tissue.

Depending on the type and stage of prostate cancer, it may require:

  • Surgical excision of the tumor
  • Chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy
  • Hormone therapy that’s designed to shrink the tumor

Note that prostate cancer often grows very slowly and is frequently diagnosed later in life. So, we may recommend simply monitoring the cancer with periodic follow-up visits and surveillance testing.

For outstanding urological care that’s customized to fit your needs, schedule a visit at Gulf Coast Urology today. Call our office or request an appointment online.

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