The prostate is a small, round, walnut-sized organ that plays a vital role in both reproductive health and getting rid of bodily waste. Located just under the bladder in a biological male’s body, it helps produce seminal fluid for use in reproduction, and also influences the flow of urine. This organ can be sensitive and vulnerable to disease, especially in later stages of life. Here are some things that you should know about the prostate and how to keep it healthy.
The Role of the Prostate in the Body
The prostate serves multiple functions within the body:
- Creating prostatic fluid: While the testes create sperm, the prostate contributes part of the seminal fluid that the sperm flows and lives within. The seminal vesicle, a neighboring organ, provides the rest of this fluid. Prostatic fluid includes chemicals and nutrients such as enzymes, zinc, and citric acid that make seminal fluid an ideal place for sperm to live, and protects it from the acidic fluids present in the vagina and uterus that could potentially damage it.
- Closing the urethra: The urethra is the tube that both semen and urine flow through to exit the body through the penis. This tube runs right through the prostate, and when the body ejaculates semen, it contracts and closes off the urethra and the opening of the bladder. This is why in normal medical scenarios, urine and semen can’t exit the body at the same time.
- Producing hormones: The prostate produces an enzyme that converts the male hormone testosterone into a different kind of active hormone called dihydrotestosterone, which is essential for the proper functioning of the prostate and also secondary sex characteristics like facial hair.
Medical Conditions Involving the Prostate
The prostate is vulnerable to several medical conditions that can cause it to become unhealthy, including:
- Prostatitis: This condition is an inflammation of the prostate gland, and is most common in males under the age of 50. Acute prostatitis is the result of a bacterial infection, and if this infection lasts for a few months, it can become chronic prostatitis, or chronic pelvic pain syndrome. Prostatitis results mainly in pain within the pelvic area of the body and can inhibit both urination and sexual function.
- Enlarged Prostate: This condition occurs when the prostate expands at the entry point of the urethra and pinches or closes it, causing problems with urination. In extreme scenarios, an enlarged prostate can cut off all ability to urinate, making it impossible for the bladder to empty. This condition occurs primarily in males over the age of 50. If you experience this condition, seek medical attention immediately.
- Prostate cancer: Prostate cancer is the second most common form of cancer within the male body, next to skin cancer. It affects 1 in 9 biological males at various points in their lives every year (though it’s most common around the average age of 66). Prostate cancer involves the growth of a malignant tumor or tumors that endanger the health of the prostate, and it can cause a great deal of pain.
Some of the symptoms that can signal a prostate problem include:
- Difficulty urinating or maintaining a steady stream of urine
- Pain in the pelvic region
- Feeling like you need to urinate, but are unable to
- Feeling like your bladder has not been fully emptied
- Experiencing pain or burning sensations when urinating or ejaculating
- Chills or high fever (usually in conjunction with another symptom)
- Lower body aches
Ways to Keep the Prostate Healthy
While the health of your prostate is not entirely within your control, there are still some things you can do to prevent it from developing disease.
- Pass urine normally: When urinating, make sure to do your best to empty your bladder each time. Don’t make a routine of holding in urine, and use the bathroom as frequently as necessary. If you find yourself making an abnormal number of trips to the bathroom every day, however, you may need to talk to your doctor.
- Get a prostate exam: There are many ways that a physician can examine your prostate, such as blood tests and rectal exams, but it’s generally a good idea to talk to your physician about when they recommend having one. Keeping tabs on your prostate health can help you catch conditions like prostate cancer early on. This will be especially important as you age.
- Pay attention to medication: If you already have prostate issues or are genetically more likely to develop them, keep an eye on the medications you take, if any. Certain medications can affect the health of your prostate and make prostate conditions worse.
We’re Here to Help
No matter what health concerns you may face, Community Access Network is here to lend a hand. Our physicians are committed to giving you the best care possible, and if you are having prostate problems or any other wellness concern, we want to help. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!