The Prostate Gland
The prostate gland is a part of the male reproductive system. It is a small, walnut-sized gland that encircles the urethra as it leaves the urinary bladder. The prostate gland also lies in close proximity to the rectum. Therefore, it can be felt during a rectal examination. The function of the prostate gland is to secrete a milky white, alkaline fluid that constitutes about one third of the total volume of the semen.
The smooth muscles of the prostate gland help in the ejaculation process. The fluid from the prostate gland prolongs the life of the sperms in the vagina by neutralizing the acidity in the female reproductive tract. The sperms also have better motility when they are ejaculated along with the fluid from the prostate gland.
Common Prostate Problems
Some of the medical conditions related to the prostate gland are benign prostatic hypertrophy (commonly abbreviated as BPH), prostatitis, and prostate cancer.
The prostate gland becomes enlarged with age. This enlargement of the prostate gland is referred to as hypertrophy. Since enlargement of the prostate gland is a frequent occurrence in elderly men and is rarely an indication of cancer, such hypertrophy is referred to as benign prostatic hypertrophy.
The enlargement of the prostate gland in benign prostatic hypertrophy squeezes the urethra and makes urination difficult. Treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia can be done through medication or surgery. Prostatitis refers to inflammation of the prostate gland. Infection is a common cause of prostatitis. Antibiotics can be used to treat the condition.
Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancers in men. However, it can be treated effectively through chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormonal therapy and surgery. Mortality due to prostate cancer is relatively low when compared to mortality rates in other types of cancers such as skin cancer.
Read more on prostate cancer.
Prostate Tests and Scans
Diagnostic tests for prostate abnormalities include physical examination, ultrasound examination, study of prostate biopsy samples and laboratory tests to detect the levels of prostate-specific antigen (commonly abbreviated as PSA) in the blood. To detect an enlargement of the prostate gland, a doctor may conduct a direct rectal examination of the prostate gland.
Ultrasound examination of the prostate gland through the rectal route can also detect an enlargement of the prostate gland. An increase in the level of prostate-specific antigen in the blood occurs in both prostatic hypertrophy and prostate cancer. Prostate biopsy via the rectal route may then be done to rule out or confirm the presence of prostate cancer.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia, prostatitis, and prostate cancer are all capable of causing prostate pain (medically referred to as prostatodynia). The nature of the pain itself may differ in these conditions. For example, the intensity of pain is not the same in all cases of prostate problems. In some cases of chronic prostatitis and mild benign prostatic hyperplasia, there may not be any pain at all.
In such cases, the pain may become noticeable only during secondary infections of the prostate gland or acute exacerbation of inflammation. In other cases, prostate pain may radiate to other structures in the pelvis, lower back, and penis. It is possible for the entire pelvic or lower abdominal area to become painful due to prostate problems.
It can be difficult to detect prostate pain due to the non-specific nature of the pain. For example, prostate pain may be felt as unexplainable pain in the pelvic region. This is known as the chronic pelvic pain syndrome. The involvement of prostate gland in such cases can be inferred only by the presence of urinary dysfunction and identification of inflammatory cells and microbes in semen and urine.
Type of Prostate Pain
Patients may report prostate pain in various ways. In some cases, they may describe a discomforting feeling that the bladder or rectum does not become empty after urination or defecation. This type of sensation feels like a persistent pressure in the bladder and rectum rather than outright pain. In other cases, the patients may describe a deep-seated pain behind the scrotum or penis.
The intensity of the pain may be described by terms such as mild, moderate or severe. The nature of the pain may be described as bladder-bursting pain, stabbing pain, or burning pain. The varying nature of prostate pain makes it difficult to diagnose the presence of a prostate problem solely on the basis of the pain. Other signs and symptoms need to be taken into account to identify problems with the prostate gland.
Location of Prostate Pain
Prostate pain is felt and described by patients in different ways. An individual suffering from prostate pain may describe the feeling as emanating from other structures in the pelvis and lower abdominal region. For example, a patient may describe prostate pain as pelvic pain, groin pain, bladder pain, lower back pain, pain in the testes, pain in the tailbone, and pain in the rectum.
In order to identify prostate pain as such, one must know the location of the prostate gland. The prostate gland lies in front of the rectum, below the urinary bladder, behind the pubic symphysis and above the levator ani muscles. Pain attributed to any of these surrounding structures may actually originate from the prostate gland.
Signs and Symptoms
Problems in the prostate gland are not always painful. In some cases, prostate problems may be asymptomatic or silent. When pain does accompany a prostate problem, it becomes difficult to identify the root of the problem due to the vague and varied nature of the pain. Therefore, it is important to look for other signs and symptoms that may indicate the source of the pain.
Read more on burning urine.
The following are some of the signs and symptoms that may indicate the presence of prostate problems:
- Urination may become painful (a condition known as dysuria).
- Feeling of incomplete void
- Sing of the bladder even after urination.
- Strain in order to urinate.
- Frequency of urination may increase.
- Awaken to urinate at night (a condition known as nocturia).
- Urine may dribble out even after the act of urination (a condition known as post-micturition dribble).
- Ejaculation may become painful.
- Urine may contain traces of blood (a condition known as hematuria).
- Semen may contain traces of blood (a condition known as hematospermia).
- Erectile dysfunction may occur.
- Legs may swell.
- Unintentionally and unexpectedly lose weight.
- Fever may also be present depdnding on the cause.