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Prostate disease is a general term used to describe a number of medical conditions that can affect the prostate gland.
The prostate gland is a small gland only found in men. It's located between the penis and bladder and surrounds the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the penis).
The prostate gland helps with the production of semen (the fluid that transports sperm). It produces a thick, white fluid that's liquefied by a special protein called prostate-specific antigen (PSA). The fluid is mixed with sperm, produced by the testicles, to create semen.
There are a number of conditions that can affect the prostate gland including:
Below is a summary of these conditions, plus links to more detailed information about each of them.
Prostate enlargement is a common condition associated with ageing. About a third of all men over 50 years of age will have symptoms of prostate enlargement (see below).
The urethra is a tube that runs from the bladder through the prostate to the end of the penis. Urine flows through the urethra and out of the body when a man urinates. If the prostate becomes enlarged it can place pressure on the urethra, making it more difficult for the bladder to empty.
An enlarged prostate can cause symptoms that can affect the normal pattern of urination. For example, it can:
A simple treatment for prostate enlargement is to reduce the amount you drink before you go to bed.
Medications, such as alpha blockers, are also available to help relax the prostate gland muscles, or reduce its size, making it easier to urinate.
In severe cases that fail to respond to medication, the inner part of the prostate gland that is blocking the urethra can be surgically removed.
Read more about prostate enlargement.
Prostatitis is a poorly understood condition where the prostate gland becomes inflamed (red and swollen). Inflammation often occurs as a response to infection, but in most cases of prostatitis no evidence of infection can be found.
Symptoms of prostatitis include:
Prostatitis is thought to affect up to 3 in 20 men (15%) at some point in their lives. Although it can affect men of any age, it is more common in men between 30-50 years of age.
Prostatitis can be treated using a combination of painkillers and a type of medication known as an alpha-blocker, which can help relieve the symptoms.
Read more about prostatitis.
In the UK, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men, with over 40,000 new cases diagnosed every year.
Your chances of developing prostate cancer increase with age. Most cases occur in men who are 50 years of age or older.
The causes of prostate cancer are unknown, but risk factors include age, ethnic origin and family history.
The symptoms of prostate cancer are similar to those of prostate enlargement and include:
The outlook for prostate cancer is generally good because, unlike many other types of cancer, it usually progresses very slowly. Many men die with prostate cancer, rather than as a result of having it.
If treated early, prostate cancer can often be cured. Treatments include:
These treatments carry the risk of significant side effects including:
For this reason, many men choose to delay treatment until there is a significant risk of the cancer spreading.
It's usually not possible to cure the cancer if it spreads from the prostate gland to other parts of the body (a process known as metastasis). In this case, the aim of treatment will be to relieve the symptoms and prolong life.
Read more about prostate cancer.
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.