When Nature Calls Too Often

No man should accept urinary problems as a fact of life.
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Routine bodily functions shouldn’t require a second thought. But for many men 50 and older, the simple act of urination becomes troublesome. They may have difficulty emptying the bladder or find that they need to go so frequently that it’s a nuisance.

Often, the culprit is an enlarged prostate, known medically as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). This condition affects roughly half of all males in their 50s, and 90 percent of those 80 and older.

In fact, according to Englewood urologist Richard Lee, M.D., “The majority of men are going to have symptoms from BPH in their lifetime.” Fortunately, there are a number of effective treatments.

The prostate is about the size of a walnut and surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body. The prostate’s main function is to produce semen, but if it becomes enlarged, it can squeeze down on the urethra, causing urination difficulties.

BPH runs in families, but simple aging is the primary risk factor. The vast majority of men with this condition have mild symptoms and live very well without any treatment. Men can also reduce symptoms by making lifestyle changes.

Still, it’s important for men experiencing these symptoms to talk with their doctors because there are other conditions that may need more immediate treatment. Another reason: BPH can lead to complications, so it should be monitored.

Often, BPH can be treated with medications that shrink the prostate. “The majority of patients treat symptoms with medication, which works well,” says Dr. Lee, affiliated with Holy Name Medical Center and Englewood Hospital and Medical Center. In some cases, minimally invasive or surgical therapy to remove overgrown prostate tissue may be recommended. The most appropriate treatment depends on several factors, such as the size of the prostate, the patient’s age, overall health and how difficult the symptoms are to live with.

“Most people who are treated always say how life altering it is,” says Dr. Lee.

Men who experience symptoms of BPH don’t need to suffer in silence. Doctors have several treatment options that can help make going to the men’s room an occasional necessity, not a life-limiting concern.

Symptoms of BPH

  • The need to empty the bladder frequently, sometimes as often as every hour or two, possibly including nighttime
  • The sensation that the bladder is not empty, even after urination
  • The inability to postpone urination once the urge to urinate arises
  • A weak urinary stream, dribbling of urine or the need to stop and start urinating several times
  • Trouble starting to urinate—a man may need to push or strain to start the flow
  • An inability to urinate at all (an extreme case that would require emergency medical attention)

Support Prostate Health With These Lifestyle Changes

  • Choose a healthy diet  
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Avoid decongestants and antihistamines
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mayo Clinic

Categories: Bergen Health & Life