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Sunday September 1, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday September 1, 2013 MYT 7:59:08 AM
by tee shiao eek
Men with enlarged prostates will find that they have to urinate frequently, cannot empty their bladder completely, leak after urination, have a weak urine stream or face difficulty starting urination.
The prostate may be tiny and not appear to have much function, but it is actually far more important for the overall health and well-being of a man than previously thought.
DO you know where your prostate is? Chances are, you don’t have a clue. You may not even have realised that you have a gland in your body called the prostate, until a doctor, relative or friend tells you about prostate diseases.
You’re not alone, as most men do not know what or where their prostate is, much less what it does.
However, this has to change. The prostate may be tiny and not appear to have much function, but it is actually far more important for the overall health and well-being of a man than previously thought.
The prostate can be considered a gateway to men’s health. Learning to recognise prostate problems and addressing them early can help avert other health conditions.
What you need to know
The prostate is a small gland that is part of the male sexual reproductive system.
It sits between the bladder and the penis. The urethra, which is the tube through which urine and semen flow, runs through the prostate.
The primary purpose of the prostate is reproductive in nature, as it helps keep sperm healthy for conception. The prostate secretes prostatic fluid that nourishes and protects the sperm. This fluid is whitish in colour and is expelled with sperm as semen.
During puberty, the prostate grows until it reaches the size of a walnut. Then its size remains consistent until a man hits 40, which is when the prostate begins growing again. This is usually the time prostate problems may start to develope.
Common prostate problems
The prostate does not serve any purpose beyond producing prostatic fluid.
Despite its simple function, however, the prostate can be the source of a lot of problems for men.
The most common problems are prostate enlargement (benign prostatic hyperplasia, BPH), inflammation (prostatitis) and cancer. These can significantly affect a man’s health and quality of life.
Enlarged prostate (BPH)
When a man reaches the age of 40, the prostate starts increasing in size by 14% every year.
BPH is very common among elderly men, affecting more men as they get older, especially in their 60s and 70s.
BPH is not a cancerous condition, but it causes urinary problems because the prostate presses on the urethra and causes the urinal passage to become narrower.
Therefore, men with enlarged prostates will find that they have to urinate frequently, cannot empty their bladder completely, leak after urination, have a weak urine stream or face difficulty starting urination. These symptoms are called Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms (LUTS).
LUTS will worsen as the prostate gets bigger. Many men find that LUTS interferes with their sleep routine, causes physical discomfort and disrupts their normal daily activities, although they may not admit the extent of the problem.
In rare instances, untreated BPH may also lead to inability to urinate, incontinence, bladder stones, kidney infections, and damage to the bladder, kidneys and urethra.
That is why an enlarged prostate and its symptoms should not be ignored or treated as a trivial matter, even if it may be a common and non-fatal condition. You do not have to live with this inconvenient and debilitating condition.
Prostate inflammation (prostatitis)
Inflammation of the prostate, or prostatitis, occurs in a lot of men under the age of 50.
There are several types of prostatitis, depending on the cause of the condition.
Non-bacterial prostatitis is the most common type, while bacterial prostatitis accounts for less than 10% of cases. The latter may be present for several years (chronic) or come on suddenly (acute).
Prostatitis causes a frequent and urgent need to urinate, just like with BPH.
It also causes a burning sensation during urination, blood in the urine or semen, as well as pain or discomfort in the testicles, urethra, lower abdomen and back.
You can also expect some symptoms of infection like fever, chills, fatigue and nausea.
Prostatitis can cause poor quality of life and should be treated as early as possible.
Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer among men. It occurs when the cells in the prostate gland grow out of control.
Prostate cancer develops very slowly, and at the later stages, may cause urinary symptoms similar to BPH and prostatitis, causing challenges in diagnosing and treating it early.
Prostate cancer can be fatal, although it usually grows so slowly that men die of other causes first.
Men are encouraged to get their prostate checked annually after they reach the age of 40, by going for a digital rectal examination.
Prostrate-specific antigen (PSA) screening tests may be helpful when used alongside a digital rectal examination in men who are at higher risk of prostate cancer.
Age, race, family history and lifestyle habits are among the risk factors that make a man more prone to developing prostate cancer.
Unhealthy habits like lack of exercise and eating lots of fat, meat and refined carbohydrates, are known to lead to obesity, high blood pressure, unhealthy lipid levels and high blood glucose – but now, it has also been found that an unhealthy lifestyle also makes Asian men more predisposed to developing prostate cancer.
Prostate conditions and urinary problems are very closely linked to sexual dysfunctions, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular diseases. This relationship will be further discussed in the coming weeks in this column.
As you can see, urinary problems are not petty complaints by “old men”, but signs of a legitimate and serious condition that could adversely impact quality of life. It is time we give prostate health the attention it deserves.
For more information, readers can refer to Men’s Health and The Prostate, available at RM45 per book. To obtain copies, please contact Ms Kana or Ms Poh, Sime Darby Medical Centre, 1 Jalan SS12/1A, Subang Jaya, 47500 Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Call 03-56396779, email firstname.lastname@example.org or fax 03-56391870. Proceeds from the sale of this book go toward the research funds of the Malaysian Society of Andrology and The Study of The Aging Male. The book can be delivered to any address within Malaysia by mail or courier without any additional charge. This article is contributed by The Star Health & Ageing Panel, which comprises a group of panellists who are not just opinion leaders in their respective fields of medical expertise, but have wide experience in medical health education for the public. The members of the panel include: Datuk Prof Dr Tan Hui Meng, consultant urologist; Dr Yap Piang Kian, consultant endocrinologist; Datuk Dr Azhari Rosman, consultant cardiologist; A/Prof Dr Philip Poi, consultant geriatrician; Dr Hew Fen Lee, consultant endocrinologist; Prof Dr Low Wah Yun, psychologist; Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist; Dr Lee Moon Keen, consultant neurologist; Dr Ting Hoon Chin, consultant dermatologist; Prof Khoo Ee Ming, primary care physician; Dr Ng Soo Chin, consultant haematologist. For more information, e-mail email@example.com. The Star Health & Ageing Advisory Panel provides this information for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star Health & Ageing Advisory Panel disclaims any and all liability for injury or other damages that could result from use of the information obtained from this article.
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