Prostate Gland: Function, Disorders and Treatment Options for Men | Max Hospital

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Prostate Gland: Function, Disorders and Treatment Options

By Dr. Mandeep Kr. Dhanda in Urology

Feb 21 , 2024 | 10 min read

Placed discreetly within the male reproductive system, the prostate gland serves as a crucial but often overlooked component of men’s health. Reverberating beyond its small size, this walnut-shaped organ has a significant influence on various bodily functions. However, like any intricate mechanism, the prostate gland is susceptible to a range of ailments that can have profound implications on a man’s well-being. From benign enlargement to potentially life-threatening conditions, the prostate gland’s disorders encompass a broad spectrum, prompting a varied array of treatments that continue to evolve in their sophistication and effectiveness. In this article, we explore the multifaceted realm of prostate gland disorders and their treatment modalities, shedding light on the pivotal aspects shaping men’s health, starting with some basics. Read on.

What Is Prostate Gland?

The prostate gland is a small, muscular gland situated just below the bladder and in front of the rectum, surrounding the urethra, the tube responsible for carrying urine from the bladder and semen from the reproductive system out of the body. The primary function of the prostate gland is to produce a milky, alkaline fluid that mixes with sperm from the testes and other seminal fluids during ejaculation to form semen.

The Role of Prostate in Male Fertility

The prostate gland plays a significant role in male fertility by contributing to the production of semen and supporting the functionality of sperm. While sperm is produced in the testes, the prostate gland contributes a vital component to semen, by producing prostatic fluid rich in enzymes, proteins, and nutrients that are crucial for the health and motility of sperm.

When it comes to male fertility, the prostatic fluid serves several key purposes, including:

  • Nutrient Support: The secretions from the prostate gland provide nutrients and energy sources for sperm, aiding in their survival and mobility.
  • Sperm Protection: The fluid from the prostate protects the sperm on their journey through the male and female reproductive tracts, helping to shield them from the acidic environment in the male urethra and female reproductive tract.
  • Semen Viscosity: The fluid from the prostate contributes to the viscosity of semen, aiding in the ejaculatory process and the movement of sperm through the reproductive system.

As the prostate provides a supportive environment for sperm, enhancing the chances of successful conception, any dysfunction or disorders can potentially affect the quality and quantity of prostatic fluid, influencing male fertility.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Prostate Problems

Prostate problems can manifest through various signs and symptoms, indicating potential issues with the prostate gland. It's essential to note that not all prostate problems display symptoms, but when they do, the most common signs include:

Urinary Changes

  • Increased frequency of urination, especially at night (nocturia).
  • Difficulty initiating urination or a weakened urinary stream.
  • Inability to completely empty the bladder, leading to a sensation of incomplete emptying.
  • Urgency to urinate.

Pain or Discomfort

  • Pain or burning sensation during urination (dysuria).
  • Discomfort in the pelvic area, genitals, or lower back.

Blood in Urine or Semen

Blood in urine (hematuria) or semen can indicate various conditions, including infections or more serious issues such as prostate cancer.

Sexual Dysfunction

Other symptoms of prostate problems include recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs) and general weakness or fatigue. 

Additionally, given the overlap in symptoms, it's crucial to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis. Men experiencing any of these symptoms, especially if they persist or worsen, should seek medical advice for proper evaluation and appropriate treatment. Regular screenings and check-ups, particularly for men over the age of 50, can help detect prostate issues early and improve the chances of successful treatment.

Common Conditions That Affect the Prostate

Several conditions and disorders can affect the prostate. Here are some common ones:

1. Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)

BPH is a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland. It occurs when the prostate tissue grows and compresses the urethra, leading to various urinary symptoms.

BPH Symptoms

As the prostate enlarges, it can squeeze the urethra, leading to various urinary symptoms. Common symptoms of BPH include:

  • The need to urinate more often, especially at night (nocturia).
  • A sudden and urgent need to urinate.
  • Weak or interrupted flow of urine may be.
  • Difficulty starting urination.
  • A feeling that the bladder has not emptied completely.
  • Effort is needed to push urine out.
  • In severe cases, BPH can lead to the inability to urinate at all.

BPH Causes

The primary cause is attributed to age-related hormonal changes, specifically an increase in dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which stimulates the growth of prostate cells.

BPH Treatment

  • Watchful Waiting: Monitoring the condition without immediate intervention. Suitable for mild symptoms.
  • Lifestyle and Behavioral Measures: Managing symptoms through lifestyle changes, such as limiting caffeine and alcohol, and practicing pelvic floor exercises.
  • Medications: Administration of alpha-blockers and 5-alpha reductase inhibitors to relax muscles and reduce prostate size.
  • Minimally Invasive Procedures: Procedures such as Transurethral Microwave Thermotherapy (TUMT) or Laser Therapy may be prescribed to reduce prostate tissue.
  • Transurethral Resection of the Prostate (TURP): Surgical removal of excess prostate tissue.
  • Prostatic Urethral Lift (UroLift): A minimally invasive procedure. Small implants are placed in the prostate to lift and hold enlarged tissue away from the urethra, improving urine flow.
  • Open Prostatectomy: In severe cases of BPH, open prostatectomy could be prescribed, in which the central portion of the prostate is removed through an abdominal incision.

Also, Read - An Enlarged Prostate Can Cause Trouble Urinating

2. Prostatitis

Prostatitis refers to the inflammation of the prostate gland. It can be acute or chronic and is classified into bacterial and nonbacterial types.

Prostatitis Causes

Different types of prostatitis have different underlying causes. Here is an overview: 

  • Acute Bacterial Prostatitis: Typically caused by bacteria entering the prostate, often from a urinary tract infection.
  • Chronic Bacterial Prostatitis: Similar to acute bacterial prostatitis but with persistent or recurrent infections.
  • Chronic Prostatitis/Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome: The cause is often unknown, and it may involve non-bacterial factors such as inflammation or muscle tension.

Prostatitis Symptoms

Prostatitis can have a range of symptoms that vary depending on the type and whether the condition is acute or chronic. Here are the common symptoms associated with prostatitis:

Acute Bacterial Prostatitis Symptoms

  • Fever and chills, often accompanied by flu-like symptoms.
  • Pain and discomfort in the lower abdomen, perineum (the area between the scrotum and anus), lower back, or genital area.
  • Increased frequency and urgency of urination, pain or burning during urination, and difficulty emptying the bladder completely.
  • Blood in urine (Hematuria).

Chronic Bacterial Prostatitis  Symptoms

  • Symptoms may be less severe but persist or recur over an extended period.
  • Chronic discomfort or pain in the pelvic region, lower back, or genitals.
  • Increased frequency and urgency of urination.

Chronic rostatitis (CP)/Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome (CPPS) Symptoms

  • Persistent discomfort or pain in the pelvic region, genitals, lower back, or rectum.
  • Discomfort or pain during or after ejaculation.
  • Increased frequency and urgency of urination.
  • Erectile dysfunction or changes in sexual desire.

Asymptomatic Inflammatory Prostatitis Symptoms

As the name suggests, individuals affected by asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis may not experience noticeable symptoms. The problem is often diagnosed incidentally during tests for other conditions.

Prostatitis Treatment

The treatment for prostatitis varies depending on the specific type of prostatitis and its underlying cause. 

  • For acute bacterial prostatitis, a course of antibiotics is typically prescribed, along with pain medications and adequate hydration. 
  • In cases of chronic bacterial prostatitis, prolonged antibiotic treatment is necessary, supplemented with pain medications and, in some instances, alpha-blockers. 
  • Chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome may involve a combination of pain medications, alpha-blockers, physical therapy, and psychological support to manage symptoms effectively. 
  • Lastly, asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis may not require active treatment but is generally monitored. 

Note: It is crucial for individuals experiencing prostatitis symptoms to consult with a healthcare professional for a precise diagnosis and a tailored treatment plan that addresses their specific condition.

3. Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the prostate gland, when the cells in the prostate gland undergo abnormal growth and form a malignant tumor.

Prostate Cancer Causes

The exact cause of prostate cancer is not fully understood, but certain risk factors may increase the likelihood of its development. These risk factors include age (the risk increases with age), family history of prostate cancer, race (African American men have a higher risk), and certain genetic factors. Hormonal changes and environmental factors may also contribute to the development of prostate cancer.

Prostate Cancer Symptoms

In the early stages, prostate cancer may not cause noticeable symptoms. As the cancer progresses, symptoms may include:

  • Increased frequency of urination, difficulty starting or stopping urination, weak or interrupted urine flow, and a feeling of incomplete emptying.
  • Blood may be present in the urine or semen.
  • Difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection.
  • Discomfort or pain in the pelvic area.

It's important to note that these symptoms can also be indicative of other non-cancerous conditions affecting the prostate, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or prostatitis.

Prostate Cancer Treatment

Treatment for prostate cancer depends on various factors, including the stage of the cancer, the patient's overall health, and individual preferences. Treatment options may include:

  • Active Monitoring: Monitoring the cancer's progression without immediate treatment in cases of low-risk cancer.
  • Surgery: Surgical removal of the prostate gland (prostatectomy).
  • Radiation Therapy: Using high-energy rays to target and kill cancer cells.
  • Hormone Therapy: Lowering or blocking hormones that fuel the growth of prostate cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy: Medications to kill cancer cells or slow their growth.

4. Prostatic Intraepithelial Neoplasia (PIN)

Prostatic Intraepithelial Neoplasia (PIN) is a condition characterized by the presence of abnormal cells within the prostate gland, serving as a pre-cancerous state. PIN is often discovered incidentally during a prostate biopsy, typically prompted by elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels or abnormal findings on a digital rectal examination (DRE).

PIN Causes

While the exact cause of PIN is not well-defined, it is considered a precursor to prostate cancer. Certain risk factors, such as age, family history, and genetic factors, may contribute to the development of PIN.

PIN Symptoms

PIN itself does not present with noticeable symptoms. It is usually identified through biopsy and does not cause the urinary or sexual symptoms commonly associated with prostate conditions.

PIN Treatment

The treatment and management of PIN involves close monitoring and regular follow-up with a healthcare professional. Specific treatment for PIN itself may not be necessary, as it is a non-cancerous condition. However, if high-grade PIN (HGPIN) is identified, additional measures may be considered, including:

  • Repeat Biopsies: Regular prostate biopsies may be recommended to monitor for any progression to cancer.
  • Risk Reduction Strategies: Adopting a healthy lifestyle, such as maintaining a balanced diet, regular exercise, and avoiding tobacco, may contribute to reducing the risk of prostate cancer.

5. Prostate Stones

Prostate stones, also known as prostatic calculi, are small, calcified formations that can develop within the prostate gland. These stones are typically composed of calcium and other minerals, and they can vary in size from very small to a few millimeters in diameter.

Prostate Stone Causes

The exact cause of prostate stones is not always clear, but they may develop due to the accumulation of substances like calcium, phosphate, and proteins within the prostate ducts. Chronic inflammation or infection of the prostate (prostatitis) may contribute to the formation of these stones.

Prostate Stone  Symptoms

Prostate stones often do not cause noticeable symptoms, and they may be discovered incidentally during medical imaging or examinations for other prostate-related conditions. In some cases, larger stones or an accumulation of stones may contribute to symptoms such as:

  • Pelvic Pain: Discomfort or pain in the pelvic region.
  • Urinary Symptoms: Changes in urination, including increased frequency, urgency, or difficulty in initiating or maintaining a urine stream.

Prostate Stone Treatment

Treatment for prostate stones may not be necessary if they are not causing symptoms. If symptoms are present, treatment options may include:

  • Antibiotics: If the presence of stones is associated with an underlying infection or inflammation, antibiotics may be prescribed.
  • Alpha-blockers: Alpha-blockers may be used to help relax the muscles around the prostate and alleviate symptoms.
  • Prostate Massage: In some cases, a healthcare provider may perform a prostate massage to help express or remove the stones.
  • Surgery: For larger or persistent stones, surgical procedures such as transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) may be considered.

The choice of treatment depends on the size and location of the stones, the presence of symptoms, and the overall health of the individual. 

Final words

While this article has provided insights into the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for these conditions, it is important to recognize that individual experiences may vary. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms related to the prostate or has concerns about prostate health, consult a specialist at Max Hospitals at the earliest. Max Hospitals, with state-of-the-art facilities, experienced urologists, and a patient-centric approach, is ideally positioned to provide personalized treatment plans for managing all types of prostate conditions effectively.