The prostate is a gland found only in men. It sits in the groin, behind the base of the penis inside the body. The main function of the prostate is to produce one of the major fluids that make up semen.

The urethra, the tube which carries urine from the bladder to the penis, also runs through the prostate. The prostate connects to the urethra so that the fluid it makes can be mixed with the fluid from the testes and ejaculated.

Anything that causes swelling or enlargement to the prostate can affect a man’s ability to pass urine because the urethra goes through the prostate gland. Trouble passing urine is one of the most common signs that there may be a problem with the prostate.

What types of prostate problems are there?

There are 3 main conditions that can affect your prostate. They are:

  • prostate enlargement
  • prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland)
  • prostate cancer

Prostate enlargement and prostate cancer usually only affect men over the age of 50 and about half of men over this age will have some prostate enlargement. Prostatitis is caused by bacteria and can affect men of any age. It is important for men, no matter what their age, to discuss prostate health with their doctor, and it can be talked about no matter what the reason for your visit to the doctor is.

What are the symptoms of prostate problems?

The common symptoms of prostate disease are:

  • difficulty in passing urine, for example difficulty getting started or dribbling
  • frequent urination
  • waking at night to urinate
  • pain or burning when passing urine
  • pain when ejaculating
  • cloudy urine
  • blood in the urine
  • pain in your scrotum, penis, testicles or rectum
  • If you have any of these symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor.

How are prostate problems treated?

Treatment for prostate disease depends on the condition and how severe the symptoms are. Sometimes, no treatment is required.

If you have an enlarged prostate, then you will need treatment only if it is causing you problems. The treatments include medication and surgery.

If you have prostatitis then medications, including antibiotics, can help.

If you have prostate cancer, then there is a choice between waiting to see if it will grow quickly or not (some prostate cancers don’t) and having treatment like surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. You will need to talk to your doctor in detail about this.

Looking after yourself

You may be able to reduce the symptoms of prostate problems by:

  • avoiding alcohol and caffeine, which can both make you urinate more often
  • avoiding spicy or acidic foods, which can irritate your bladder
  • avoiding drinking late in the evening to reduce the chances of having to urinate during the night
  • avoiding sitting or bicycling for too long, as these can irritate the prostate
  • making sure you drink plenty of water to flush bacteria from your bladder
  • increasing the amount of fruit and fibre you eat to avoid constipation, which can put pressure on your bladder and your prostate
  • avoiding the unnecessary use of cold and allergy medicines such as decongestants and antihistamines, which can affect muscles in the bladder
  • sitting in a warm bath to ease symptoms

Additional resources – Prostate cancer