November 30, 2023
4 Health Complications of Enlarged Prostate
Often, after a man visits his doctor due to issues or symptoms related to the prostate gland, they are relieved to discover that it isn't prostate cancer they're facing — but BPH — benign prostatic hyperplasia—an enlarged prostate. Being told "you don't have cancer" is a relief for anyone, but an enlarged prostate diagnosis isn't "nothing," and it certainly isn't something to ignore. There are significant health effects that can present themselves in men with prostate enlargement, and each of them warrants monitoring, possible treatment, and follow-up with a qualified healthcare provider.
Urinary retention is when a man cannot completely empty his bladder upon urination. As the prostate gland enlarges, it places pressure on and pinches the urethra, the tube that takes urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. The constriction can make it challenging to start or stop urination, and it can also lead to a weak or interrupted stream of urine. In severe cases, especially those that are untreated or improperly treated, the urethra can become completely blocked, resulting in urinary retention.
Urinary retention can be an extremely uncomfortable and even painful condition for men with an enlarged prostate. It can also lead to other complications, such as urinary tract infections, bladder stones, and kidney damage. If you are experiencing urinary retention symptoms, seeing a doctor immediately is essential. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent BPH complications and improve your quality of life.
Urinary Tract Infection
BPH can increase a man's risk of developing a urinary tract infection (UTI). As with urinary retention described above, when the enlarged prostate obstructs the urethra and causes incomplete bladder emptying, a favorable environment unfortunately develops for bacteria to multiply and cause infections. Additionally, the obstruction caused by BPH can prevent the urine stream from effectively flushing out bacteria from the bladder.
Men with BPH must practice preventive measures to reduce the risk of UTIs and other complications, including:
- Make every effort to empty the bladder completely during urination.
- Avoid holding urine for extended periods. Urinate regularly throughout the day, even if you don't feel an urgent need.
- Hydrate and drink plenty of fluids to keep urine flowing and dilute bacteria.
- Practice excellent and regular hygiene around the urinary tract to minimize the introduction of bacteria.
- Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect a UTI to prevent complications.
- Consult your doctor about preventive measures specific to your enlarged prostate condition.
Overall Bladder Damage
As a result of BPH, the constant pressure from the enlarged prostate and the straining to urinate, especially over time, can stretch and weaken the bladder walls. This can lead to bladder diverticula, small pouches forming in the bladder wall's weakened areas. Bladder diverticula can harbor bacteria and contribute to recurrent UTIs, further damaging the bladder.
Preventing bladder damage from BPH involves managing the enlarged prostate and addressing any complications it causes. Regular follow-ups with a doctor are essential to monitor the progression of BPH and receive timely treatment, if necessary. Lifestyle modifications, such as drinking plenty of fluids and avoiding caffeine and alcohol, can also help reduce the risk of bladder damage.
Finally, BPH can also potentially lead to kidney damage, especially if left untreated. Over time, pressure from the prostate on the urethra can result in a backflow of urine into the ureters, the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder. This backflow, known as vesicoureteral reflux (VUR), can put excessive pressure on the kidneys and impair their ability to filter waste products from the blood properly. If VUR persists, it can lead to kidney inflammation, scarring, and, eventually, kidney failure. This is because the constant pressure and inflammation can damage the delicate filtering units of the kidneys, called nephrons. When nephrons are damaged, they cannot remove waste products and excess fluids from the blood, leading to kidney failure. It is important to note that BPH-related kidney damage is a rare complication, typically occurring in men with severe BPH that is not adequately managed.
Early diagnosis and adequate treatment of BPH can help prevent urinary retention, UTI, and bladder and kidney damage. If you are experiencing any symptoms of BPH, such as difficulty urinating, frequent urination, or incomplete bladder emptying, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for timely evaluation and treatment.