Doctors urge action on prostate issue

Prostate cancer awareness is fairly high, but a more common prostate condition has doctors concerned.

Swelling of the prostate causes urinary problems and the condition affects one in two men over the age of 50, and by the age of 80, almost 80 per cent are suffering from the condition.

An article published in the Medical Journal of Australia’s Insight explained that urologists are becoming concerned that men are ignoring the problem.

Left untreated, this non-cancerous swelling, known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH, can lead to problems with the bladder and kidneys, and is associated with erectile dysfunction.

According to article author, Associate Professor Bill Lynch from Macquarie University, the prostate has proven to be extremely burdensome to the lives of men.

An enlarged prostate can cause difficulty in passing urine and over time can lead to the complete inability to pass urine, urinary infections, damage to the kidneys or bladder, and eventually to potential surgery – reportedly, the major concern for men regarding their prostate.

“Prostate issues are a fact of life for men, and are just as relevant now as they have been through the ages,” Assoc Prof Lynch said.

“BPH is a progressive, non-cancerous disease that tends to strike ageing men. Fifty per cent of men aged in their 50s will experience BPH, increasing to 80 per cent of men aged in their 80s.

“While not all men with BPH will show symptoms, more than 30 per cent of those aged over 50 will experience moderate-to-severe lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS), two-thirds of whose symptoms will be caused by BPH.

“This equates to more than a million Australian men experiencing significant symptoms due to BPH, noting most men aged over 50 must contend with LUTS.”

The quality of life for men with symptoms of BPH is significantly lower than for those exhibiting no symptoms, with daily activities, such as driving, sport, sleep and social activities considerably affected.

BPH is also linked to male sexual function, with a higher International Prostate Symptom Score (IPPS) – a scoring system used to screen for, diagnose and monitor symptoms – associated with more severe erectile dysfunction.

“Men experience varying symptoms of BPH with different degrees of bother, including increased frequency and urgency of urination both day and night, difficulty starting, maintaining and finishing urination. They may also experience urine infections or urinary retention,” said urological surgeon Dr Martin Elmes.

Gold Coast man David, 61, has first-hand experience of BPH, having lived with the disease for almost five years before being diagnosed and treated last year.                    

“I was constantly going to the bathroom. I had to plan my entire day around the next toilet, and I was getting up about four-to-five times a night to urinate,” he said.

“I lived with these symptoms for so long having mistakenly assumed they were normal. It wasn’t until visiting my GP for an unrelated matter that he mentioned my frequent urination may be linked to my prostate,” David said.

Further testing confirmed David’s frequent urination was in fact due to BPH, and he was referred to urological surgeon, Dr Elmes, for treatment. 

“I’d never heard of BPH until being diagnosed. Up until then, I thought prostate issues were a reflection of poor health, and given I was so healthy and active, it never crossed my mind,” said David.

Treatment improved David’s BPH symptoms and quality of life, and he now has a simple message to share with other blokes.

“If you’ve got trouble with your waterworks, don’t muck around. Get checked out. Visit your doctor.”

In his article, Assoc Prof Lynch argues it’s important to get to ‘the heart of the matter’, citing the management of prostate symptoms can have far-reaching benefits for a man’s general body health. 

“Maintaining overall prostate health is vital. Importantly, anything that’s heart healthy is prostate healthy,” Assoc Prof Lynch said.

“Nearly all documented interventions or lifestyle changes beneficial for heart health have been shown to prevent, or reduce the impact of BPH and LUTS, including moderate exercise, diet (regular vegetable and water consumption, fibre and Omega-3 intake), and weight control,” said Assoc Prof Lynch.

“High blood pressure, excessive calorie intake (particularly foods high in saturated fats), high cholesterol, heart disease and conditions that heighten your risk of developing diabetes, stroke and heart disease all negatively impact BPH.  

“Making lifestyle and behavioural changes to positively support prostate health should prove even more beneficial to the heart, while helping to allay men’s fears over surgery,” Assoc Prof Lynch said.                     

“All of this information provides a compelling argument for men to consider their prostate.” 

Do you have regular prostate checks? Do you think you might be suffering from BPH? Did you know this condition was treatable?

Related articles:
Prostate cancer patients misled
How prostate cancer affects sex
Detect prostate cancer early

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Written by Ben

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