An enlarged prostate, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, affects most men during their lives and essentially occurs because a man's prostate continues to grow throughout his life. Although the symptoms may be concerning at first, this is a normal part of aging and the condition is manageable. However, because all men's prostates keep on growing, this condition is not preventable. Approximately half of all men over the age of 75 have at least some symptoms of enlarged prostate.
What Are the Symptoms of an Enlarged Prostate?
The prostate gland surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the body. Therefore, when the prostate is enlarged, it can squeeze the urethra, causing problems with urination. If your prostate is enlarged, you may experience frequent urination, sudden urge to urinate, weak urine stream, or a seeming inability to completely empty the bladder. These urination-related symptoms are the first signs of an enlarged prostate, but the condition can also cause sexual side effects.
Research suggests that men with an enlarged prostate are more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction. Unfortunately, treatments for benign prostate hyperplasia can also have their own unwanted sexual side effects. Some drugs that are used to treat the condition, such as alpha reductase inhibitors, can have the side effect of erectile dysfunction. Alpha blockers used to treat enlarged prostate can cause decreased ejaculation. The common BPH medications dutasteride and finasteride have been found to cause low libido in up to 6.4 percent of men who take it.
Some cases of enlarged prostate require surgery to treat. BPH surgery causes erectile dysfunction to an even greater degree than medications. Somewhere between 50 percent and 75 percent of men who get prostate surgery to correct this condition experience the side effect of retrograde ejaculation, which occurs when semen enters the bladder rather than exiting through the urethra during orgasm. Up to 10 percent of men who receive this surgery experience erectile dysfunction as well.
Keeping Your Prostate Healthy
Simple healthy lifestyle measures will keep your whole body—including your prostate—healthy. Eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and healthy fat sources like fish. Consider taking a daily multivitamin with zinc, a mineral that plays a role in prostate function. As you get older, it's a good idea to perform a prostate check on yourself monthly. Since this can be difficult to do correctly, seek advice from a trusted professional for proper instruction.
There are a few supplements, including nutrients and plants, that can help support prostate health and soothe some of the symptoms of enlarged prostate. One of the most famous of these supplements is saw palmetto. Saw palmetto is a palm-like plant native to the southeastern United States that was traditionally used as food and medicine by Native Americans. Nowadays, saw palmetto is mainly used for promoting a healthy prostate.
Studies have shown that saw palmetto can be effective for maintaining prostate health, specifically helping with symptoms like frequent urination, trouble urinating and waking up in the night to urinate. Research shows that saw palmetto can be nearly as effective as some medications, but without the side effects such as loss of libido. Scientists aren't sure exactly how saw palmetto works, but they believe it helps maintain a healthy inflammatory response and may affect the production of an enzyme that promotes prostate cell growth.
More research needs to be done on saw palmetto. Success with this herb varies from person to person. It could work for you, however, if you think you might be suffering from prostate health concerns, it's important to see a doctor to rule out the possibility of more serious conditions such as prostate cancer. Don't take saw palmetto without consulting your doctor if you have a medical condition, or are taking any medication.