Fr. Anselm Adodo, OSB
The prostate is a small ring-like organ that surrounds the urethra. The urethra is a tube or pipe that takes urine from the bladders to the penis and carries sperm during ejaculation. The prostate is often compared to walnut in size, hence the term: ‘walnut-sized organ.’
It is part of a man’s sexual organs and grows bigger during puberty and then stops growing. Its primary job is to add fluid to the sperm during ejaculation. Because it is a small hidden organ, most men do not even know of the existence of their prostate, not to mention where it is located, until they begin to experience one problem or the other.
As a man ages, the prostate grows bigger, especially as from the age of 40.
The problem comes when the prostate begins to grow a bit too fast, or when it keeps growing without pause. This uncontrollable growth could be as a result of hormonal changes or some unhealthy dietary habits. While the growth may not be a problem for many men, especially when it is not out of control, most will develop one of three conditions: prostatitis, enlarged prostate, and prostate cancer. Some men may even develop more than one of these conditions at the same time.
Prostatitis is an Inflammation of the prostate, sometimes caused by infection. Enlarged prostate, or benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), affects virtually all men over 50. BPH is the most common cause
of prostate enlargement. As a man ages, BPH becomes more common. About half of all men between the ages of 51 and 60 develop it, and up to 90 per cent of men over age 80 will have it. The prostate has
two main growth periods. The first, as I already mentioned, is when he goes through puberty, during which the prostate will double in size. The second growth period starts around age 25. After 40, the rate of growth will increase. It is natural for the prostate to grow, and this is what is referred to as BPH. This benign condition does not lead to prostate cancer, but a man can have both at the same time.
With an enlarged prostate, it becomes a lot more difficult to go to the toilet, and it only gets more difficult with age. Symptoms of BPH include: A weak, interrupted urine flow, urgency, leaking, or dribbling of urination, a sense of incomplete
emptying and more frequent urination, especially at night.
The third type of prostate problem is prostate cancer. Most prostate cancer grows slowly and initially stays within the prostate gland, but it can spread to local lymph nodes, bones or more distant areas. Some rare types of prostate cancer are more aggressive and can spread more quickly. Prostate cancer will affect one in six men and is the most common cancer affecting men in Nigeria. The good news is that prostate cancer is not a hopeless situation. Presently, it is estimated that one in 35 sufferers will die from it. Healthy lifestyle changes play a critical role in prevention and management of prostate cancer.
If you experience any of the symptoms already mentioned above, endeavor to consult your physician for a proper check-up. Do not make self-diagnosis, and do not forget that a trained medical doctor is the only person officially licensed to make a diagnosis of a disease. After diagnosis, the patient is free to decide which course of treatment to follow. Some could opt for conventional hospital treatment, which could involve medications, surgery, and chemotherapy in the case of cancer.
However, lifestyle changes can be another method of reducing symptoms of BPH. Remember that some symptoms of BPH can also be associated with other diseases, such as diabetes, kidney infection and STD (sexually transmitted disease). Because of this, it is recommended that all men should have a yearly prostate examination to rule out the possibility of prostate cancer. Once it is determined to be a benign enlarged prostate, men can do seven simple lifestyle changes to manage the symptoms of BPH and bring relief:
1. Being tensed or nervous can cause a man to urinate more frequently. Regular exercise, practicing yoga, and meditation can relieve stress that may help reduce the urge to urinate.
2. Each time a man urinates, he needs to empty the bladder completely to reduce the need for several trips to the bathroom. BPH makes a man feel like he needs to urinate frequently, taking the opportunity to use the restroom about every three hours even if he does not feel like he needs to. Always urinate before leaving the house and before going to bed. Doubling voiding is another strategy—when it feels like you are done urinating, wait a few seconds and try again.
3. Sometimes certain prescriptions or over-the-counter medications may contribute to the problem. Decongestant medications, like pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), and antihistamines, like diphenhydramine (Benadryl), can interfere with urination. Some prescription medications can also aggravate BPH. Diuretics used for high blood pressure can increase urinary frequency, and some antidepressants can decrease urine flow.
4. Avoid drinking fluids at least three hours before bedtime. Beverages containing caffeine or alcohol are diuretics that stimulate the kidneys to make urine, thereby increasing the likelihood of nighttime urination. They can also affect the muscle tone of the bladder.