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Enlarged Prostate

An enlarged prostate is a condition which develops when the prostate starts to grow in an ageing man. You can develop a benign prostate enlargement or it can be malicious. Every man will have prostate growth, but only some men will experience symptoms and complaints. Such complaints often involve frequent urination, or urination becomes more difficult.

Medically reviewed by G.L. Merkens on December 17, 2018


  • Information

    What is an enlarged prostate?

    An enlarged prostate is a typical male health problem. The prostate is a gland beneath the bladder which is normally the size of a chestnut. But in older age, the prostate is usually inclined to enlarge, for reasons which are presently unknown.

    An enlarged prostate is also called a prostatic hypertrophy or a benign prostatic hyperplasia, and is usually a benign feature. An enlarged prostate can close off the urethra, causing problems with urination.

    What are the symptoms?

    Enlarged prostate symptoms are often characterised by more frequent urination both during the day and at night. It becomes harder to retain urine, more difficult to get started and there is a weaker flow. There may also be dripping or a feeling that the bladder has not emptied after urination has finished.

    What are possible causes?

    Hormonal changes in an ageing man cause the prostate to enlarge. The prostate grows both internally and externally, surrounding the urethra ever more closely. This means the urethra comes under increasing pressure. And because the urethra becomes narrower, the bladder muscle has to work harder to push urine through. With this extra effort, the bladder wall becomes weaker and sometimes gets stretched.

    Over time, the bladder no longer manages to drain off all the urine, leaving some behind. Without treatment, this can later cause bladder infections and kidney problems.

    How is a diagnosis determined?

    Based on any urinary problems and additional information from completed questionnaires, the urologist can perform a prostate examination by inserting a finger in the rectum (a rectal probe).

    This examination gives an initial impression of the size of the prostate and yields information about whether any enlargement is benign or malignant.

    Small malignant tumours cannot usually be discovered by this method, but larger growths and lumps protruding from the prostate are much easier to find.

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