What is the prostate?
The prostate, also known as the prostate gland, is only the size of a chestnut, but it performs important functions in male reproduction.
It not only provides the nutrient solution for the male sperm cells, but also ensures their mobility. The prostate surrounds the urethra at the point where it leaves the bladder and goes into the seminal duct.
However, it is precisely this situation that often causes problems, since with increasing age many men experience a prostate enlargement, which, if left untreated, can narrow the urethra and lead to difficulty urinating.
Not only benign prostate enlargements, but also prostate cancer or inflammation of the prostate can cause symptoms.
Causes: Why does the prostate grow in old age?
Although the exact causes are not yet sufficiently known, the excessive, but mostly benign growth of prostate tissue in old age seems to be mainly due to hormonal changes in the male organism.
In men, the testosterone level drops during menopause and causes tissue restructuring. There is an increase in both connective tissue and glandular tissue in the prostate, which slowly but steadily increases in size and constricts the urethral tube.
Symptoms: How does an enlarged prostate express itself?
It usually takes many years for the first symptoms to appear. The first symptoms include difficulty urinating and an urge to urinate at night. In the further course, the strength of the urinary stream decreases increasingly and the bladder can only be emptied with the help of the abdominal muscles.
As the size of the prostate grows, there is also pain, burning and a pulling feeling when urinating. If the prostate affects the bladder function to such an extent that complete emptying is no longer possible, then a urinary tract infection can arise and/or urinary or kidney stones can form from the urine congestion.
Symptoms that develop later, such as thirst, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness and weight loss, can indicate the beginning of a kidney failure. In addition to this, there may be a sudden urinary retention at any stage, in which the bladder can no longer be emptied.
Diagnosis: How can an enlarged prostate be recognized?
Describing the problems with urination is usually enough for an initial diagnosis. In addition, the urologist can scan the prostate through the rectum and thus determine an enlargement. Precise size determinations are possible via an ultrasound.
In addition to this, the rate of urine drainage and the residual urine provide information about possible obstructions when emptying the bladder. If the prostate is enlarged, the blood should also be examined for the tumor marker PSA, which is typical for prostate cancer, in order to rule out cancer.
Therapy: What helps with an enlarged prostate?
Whether the treatment of the prostate is sufficient or whether surgery is necessary depends on the severity of the symptoms. First of all, medication is used to relax the prostate muscles and thus reduce the resistance at the bladder outlet.
In addition, the growth of the prostate can be delayed with so-called 5-alpha reductase inhibitors. However, if the enlargement is very advanced, the only remaining option is the surgical removal of the prostate tissue. In addition to classic processes, lasers and microwaves are also used.
Natural help against prostate problems
In the case of a slightly enlarged prostate, herbal supplements often help alleviate the symptoms. The most well-known remedy is the pumpkin seed, which not only relieves the frequent urge to urinate, but can also be used for an irritable bladder or prostate inflammation.
Saw palmetto, nettle root and rye pollen are also helpful against prostate complaints. In addition to this, phytosterol, a mixture of active substances isolated from various plants, not only alleviates prostate symptoms, but also leads to a decrease in inflammation and swelling of the prostate and may even inhibit prostate growth in the long term.
Studies have shown that lycopene can reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer. Lycopene is a carotenoid as well as a powerful radical scavenger. It mainly occurs in ripe tomatoes and other tomato products.
Since lycopene can't be produced by the body itself and you don't eat tomato products every day, the lycopene intake as a nutritional supplement makes sense. As an antioxidant, lycopene can also protect against free radicals and UV rays and delay the aging process.
Prevention: Can an enlarged prostate be avoided?
Since the exact causes that lead to an enlargement of the prostate are not yet sufficiently known, prevention is difficult. However, a healthy lifestyle with lots of exercise seems important.
Foods with plenty of phytoestrogens such as lentils, beans, soybeans, oatmeal, wheat bran or black tea may counteract prostate enlargement, especially since there are significantly fewer prostate diseases in Asian countries where this diet is common.
Prostate Tips: What else you should know
- The earlier a prostate enlargement is treated, the longer a sugery can be postponed.
- Regular checkups help identify both a benign enlarged prostate and prostate cancer in good time.
- In case of existing symptoms, regular bowel movements and drinking enough throughout the day should be ensured. Long sitting should be avoided as well as suppressing the urge to urinate.