How an Enlarged Prostate can affect your overall health
Benign prostatic hyperplasia, also known as BPH, is a prevalent condition that affects approximately 50% of men over 50 years old and up to 90% of men after the age of 85. Many men with BPH have bothersome symptoms. Others, simply do not have bothersome symptoms, either because of lack of awareness or simply they just get used to them. Every week I meet men in my office to whom I ask “How is your urination?” and their response is “Normal for my age, I guess”. Then, when I keep inquiring they have a wide array of issues and that is why I will focus today on BPH complications.
But… what happens to those that really don’t have bothersome symptoms? How do you know if you need your prostate checked?
Sit back and read below because here I will discuss the 5 most common complications associated to an enlarged prostate:
1. Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
To put it simply, Men are not supposed to be having bladder infections. Infections in women most commonly happen because bacteria migrate from the vaginal canal into the bladder through a very short urethra.
a. Average Length of the female urethra: about 2 inches
b. Average Length of the male urethra: about 8 inches.
Therefore, in men, it takes a loooong way for bacteria to get into the bladder from the outside.
When men develop bladder infections it is most likely because the urine gets trapped inside the bladder, sits there for a long time, and bacteria start growing on the inside.
2. Urinary Retention
Inability to urinate, or urinary retention, is a medical emergency. The most common cause of urinary retention in men, is BPH. The prostate grows to the point of preventing any urine from passing through. If your prostate is preventing you from urinating, you need it treated sooner rather than later.
3. Gross Hematuria
Just as men are not supposed to have urinary tract infections (UTIs), no-one, and I repeat: NO ONE, is supposed to be seeing blood in the urine (hematuria), not even people taking blood thinners. You might wonder:
Why does the prostate cause blood in the urine? The prostate is an organ that is kept alive by blood vessels that bring blood and nutrients to it. Just as when you were 20 years old you needed more food/nutrition than when you were 5 years old, a bigger prostate will need more blood vessels in order to “stay alive”. Sometimes those tiny blood vessels can bleed and when you urinate, blood can be seen.
4. Bladder Stones
When we mentioned that Bladder infections occurred because of bacteria staying trapped inside the bladder… well, now imagine that when the urine is unable to be emptied, that concentrated urine will crystallize, form tiny minerals and eventually form into stones. Now, small bladder stones may pass without treatment, but sometimes bigger stones (like the one shown in the Xray below) need treatment as these may lead to infections and other complications that may include:
a. Lower abdominal pain
b. Pain during urination
c. Frequent urination
d. Difficulty urinating or interrupted urine flow
e. Blood in the urine
5. Damage to Kidney Function
This is the most concerning of the BPH complications. If the prostate is blocking the opening of the bladder, urine starts backing up all the way up into the kidneys. Then the kidney swells due to urine failing to properly drain down into the bladder and cause a condition called hydronephrosis. This can then lead to a decline in the kidneys’ function. And as you may already know, we need our kidneys healthy!
All these BPH ‘complications’ are strong indications that the prostate needs some sort of surgical management. If you are experiencing any bothersome urinary symptoms or are having complications secondary to enlargement of the prostate, we encourage you to call our office for an appointment. We will be honored to guide you through your journey towards a healthier lifestyle.
This article was authored by Dr. Jonathan Clavell. Dr. Clavell is a urologist who specializes in men’s health including erectile dysfunction, low testosterone, Peyronie’s Disease and BPH.