Prostate Particulars: Maintain Your Urinary Health

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As men age, prostate issues can be expected. Young men generally don’t think much about this small gland just below the bladder, but prostate issues become more prevalent over time. Once-simple tasks of getting groceries, stopping at the gas station or even going out to a restaurant may now feel more like a string of restroom breaks.

Prostate problems aren’t the end of the world, but, similar to those reading glasses some of us now reach for, it’s another reminder that things aren’t what they used to be. A man’s prostate is important; it needs attention just like the rest of his health.

What is the Prostate, Anyway?
A small gland in the male reproductive system, the prostate is about the size of a walnut when it is healthy. Sitting just below the bladder in front of the rectum, the prostate also surrounds part of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder. The prostate has various functions; the most important is producing seminal fluid, which is a component of semen. It also plays a role in hormone production and helps regulate urine flow.

What are Prostate Symptoms to Watch?
When the prostate gland swells, it can compress or even block the flow of urine through the urethra. Prostate conditions can also cause problems with bladder control. If an enlarged prostate is not treated, symptoms can worsen over time and cause complications that may include bladder control issues or frequent bathroom visits.

Additional symptoms include trouble starting the urine stream or problems starting and stopping while urinating; a weak or thin urine stream; lower back pain or stiffness in hips, pelvis and upper thighs; painful ejaculation; urinary urgency, often with a small amount of urine.

What Happens in a Prostate Screening?
A prostate exam can help your doctor diagnose an enlarged or inflamed prostate. It can also help diagnose prostate cancer, the biggest risk of cancer among American men. The exam generally consists of a digital rectal exam and a test for prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, levels. While some doctors do it as part of a routine checkup, others may perform a prostate exam if a man is having symptoms of an enlarged prostate.

The Danger of a UTI
If urine isn’t flowing normally due to a problem with the prostate, bacteria can develop in the bladder and urethra, causing a urinary tract infection. Most UTIs aren’t serious, but leaving one untreated can lead to more serious medical problems. A lower urinary tract infection can spread to the kidneys. While doctors can usually treat this, in rare cases, an untreated kidney infection can lead to chronic kidney disease or cause sepsis, which is a potentially fatal infection in the bloodstream, permanent damage or death.

Symptoms of a UTI
If someone suspects a UTI, paying attention to symptoms is important. Some are painful urination or burning sensation; frequent need to urinate or sudden urges to urinate; cloudy or smelly urine or blood in urine; low-grade fever; pain or tenderness in abdomen or pelvic area; and pain in sides or upper back.

Generally, antibiotics are prescribed for urinary tract infections, but medical providers will also treat the underlying conditions. Drinking lots of fluids is very important; even though urinating may feel uncomfortable, it can help flush bacteria from the body.

A Great Prostate
Lifestyle, exercise habits and diet have a tremendous impact on a man’s prostate health. Good habits can help prevent and lower risk factors for prostate disease and conditions as they do for other areas of the body.

Exercise and lose weight; it’s always important, but for prostate health, it’s fundamental. Eat prostate-friendly foods, such as fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, vegetables and foods high in healthy fats such as avocados, nuts and olives.

Taste tea! Green tea and hibiscus are considered top drinks for prostate health. Take supplements; a daily men’s vitamin can help. Finally, take steps to reduce stress in daily life.

Picking Your Prostate Physician
This part is important. Some men view doctor’s appointments as unmanly and embarrassing; others may shake off their aches and pains as normal aging. A trusted and thorough physician is an important health partner. A good doctor continually interacts with patients, so that he or she can identify how they are feeling, see how the patient looks and understand their lifestyle. Look for a doctor that is accessible, listens, clarifies what is going on with your body, and explains the benefits of different treatments.

So, men, don’t forget to look after your prostate, and women, don’t forget to look after the man and/or men in your life. The American Urological Association recommends getting a prostate screening between the ages of 55 and 70. Depending on the results, future timing of other tests can be determined.

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