Prostate enlargement: One in three men over 50 at risk – BPH symptoms explained

The prostate gland, along with the bladder, epididymis, penis and scrotum, is part of the male reproductive anatomy.

It is unique to men, the size of a walnut, and wraps around the urethra, the base of the bladder and the vas deferens.

By adding fluid to the sperm, the prostate gland works to create semen that is then ejaculated.

While it may be small, Dr Renee Hoenderkamp, a GP, warns that it can be the source of “distressing” problems in older men.

“Prostate problems are common in men over 50, and prostate enlargement is one of them,” said Dr Renee.

“It is where the prostate gland increases in size, often naturally due to age and sometimes because of medical conditions.” 

She explained that this growth in size is properly known as BPH, or benign prostatic hyperplasia. 

Risk increases with age, with one in 12 men suffering between the ages of 31 to 40 years. This rises to one in two men diagnosed between the ages of 51 and 60, and 80 per cent of men over 80 years living with the condition.

“The symptoms of BPH can be quite distressing,” acknowledges Dr Renee.

“As the prostate gets bigger it applies pressure on the urethra, which triggers a number of problems.”

She revealed these include difficulty beginning to pee, needing to strain to get pee out and having a weak flow.

Men may also find they dribble when they pee, that they feel like their bladder isn’t empty but none is coming out, and they may also find themselves getting up multiple times in the night to go to the toilet.  

If you have these symptoms, Dr Renee recommended seeing a doctor since prostate enlargement could lead to worrying complications.

“You could develop acute urinary retention, where urine can’t come out at all,” she warned.

“This is a medical emergency usually solved with a catheter - a tube used to empty the bladder and collect urine in a drainage bag.

“Men may also suffer recurrent urinary tract infections because BPH slows flow and some urine may sit in bladder. Low-dose antibiotics may be prescribed.”

In severe cases medications, such as alpha blocker and diuretics, may be given. Surgery is also an option, although it may come with a risk of erectile dysfunction.

Lifestyle changes could help mild to moderate symptoms. Medications like decongestants for colds and hay fever and antidepressants could make symptoms worse, but you should seek medical advice before changing anything you take.

“Cut down on alcohol, fizzy drinks and caffeine, do enough enough exercise and make sure you are consuming enough fibre through fruit and vegetables to prevent constipation,” suggested Dr Renee.

“Reducing fluid in the evening could reduce likelihood you need to get up in the night, and double voiding and bladder training could also help.”