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The Signs of Prostate Problems: Detecting Cause for Concern

Aug 11, 2009

Despite awareness campaigns in recent years, many men don’t know the common symptoms indicating prostate problems and the dangers that can occur if left untreated.

A healthy prostate gland, which controls urinary and sexual functions in men, is about the size of a walnut. It’s situated just under the bladder and in front of the rectum. The prostate gland can grow excessively in mid-life, which is when men could start to experience symptoms.

“For most men, an enlarged prostate might produce only mild discomfort,” said Kevin Zorn, M.D.C.M., chief of urology at Weiss Memorial Hospital, and assistant professor and co-director of the Minimally Invasive Urology Fellowship Program at the University of Chicago. The robotic prostate surgery specialist adds, “For other men, an enlarged prostate can mask the growth of an underlying cancer.”

It’s important to have the prostate checked at routine medical exams starting at age 40. These Helpful Hints from Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago list some common signs of prostate problems:

  • Frequent urination: As the prostate enlarges, it compresses the urethra and inhibits the bladder from properly emptying. This slow obstructive process is called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and usually begins in men’s 40s. Presenting BPH symptoms include urinating more frequently, a slower stream and an increase in night time awakening, which can disrupt sleep. Any blood in the urine or a urinary infection should be evaluated by a urologist.
  • Pain or stiffness in lower back, hips or upper thighs:  Acute or chronic prostatitis is the result of bacteria infections in the prostate, which can lead to fever, chills and pain or stiffness in lower back, hips and upper thighs.
  • Elevated blood PSA levels: Yearly PSA blood draws are recommended to screen for prostate cancer. In the event that these levels rise above normal, further investigations should be pursued.
  • Inability to maintain an erection: Some men find a difference in their sexual experience as it becomes more difficult to achieve and maintain an erection. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is correlated to increasing age, smoking, and medical conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Many therapies exist to help treat ED.