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Gentlemen, go with the flow

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Mike Serebrennik

Gentlemen, pay attention, does any of the following sound familiar? When you go to the bathroom, does it take longer than usual to start the urine stream? Do you have to strain to keep going, and is the flow still weak? Do you feel that your bladder is not completely empty after you finish? Do you have to return to the bathroom soon after you already went? Do you have to wake up at night, sometimes more than once, to urinate? Do you go a lot during the day? Do you sometimes get a sudden urge to go?

If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, you may have benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Men older than 50 are at high risk for this condition. By age 50, five out of ten men have an enlarged prostate; by age 80, it’s nine out of ten. BPH is a condition exclusive to men, because only men have a prostate.

Having an enlarged prostate does not always cause symptoms, but it often does. When the prostate enlarges, it may squeeze the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body) and cause it to become narrowed or even blocked. This creates difficulty with urination and causes the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia.

BPH does not cause prostate cancer.

Yet, prostate cancer may cause symptoms like those of BPH.

This is why it is important to see a doctor when any urinary symptoms develop. Call your doctor right away if you are unable to urinate, have pain with urination or have blood in urine. Fever and cloudy urine may mean a urinary tract infection; call your doctor right away if this happens.

Your doctor will first want to make sure that your urination problem is related to benign prostatic hyperplasia and not something else. This is done by taking your medical history and doing a physical exam focused on the urinary tract. Your doctor may also order a urine test and a blood test.

BPH is usually not preventable, but it is treatable. Depending on the symptoms, BPH may or may not need treatment.

Treatment itself may be medical, with drugs that relax the muscles in the prostate and the bladder. Sometimes, medications are not enough and surgery may become necessary.

Operative procedures aim to reduce the amount of prostate tissue and relieve the obstruction to urine flow.

Enlarged prostate, especially if left untreated, can cause several complications. Although most men with an enlarged prostate do not develop them, the risks to health are serious if complications do happen.

Sudden inability to urinate, or urinary retention, is a serious complication. You might need to have a tube put into your bladder to drain the urine, and may need surgery to keep this from happening again. Urinary tract infection is another complication to avoid. The bladder protects itself from infection by constantly flushing out any bacteria.

Inability to fully empty the bladder can increase the risk of urinary tract infection. If this happens often, you might need surgery to relieve the narrowing or blockage.

Urinary bladder stones can also form because of inability to completely empty the bladder.

These can cause bladder infection and irritation, blood in the urine and blockage of urine flow. A doctor usually has to remove bladder stones if they appear.

If the bladder cannot empty, it may fill beyond normal capacity.

This can cause bladder damage, since the bladder can stretch and weaken over time. As a result, the muscular wall of the bladder may no longer contract properly, making it even harder to urinate.

Kidney damage could happen because the pressure build-up in the urinary system can directly hurt the kidneys or allow bladder infections to extend to the kidneys.

The good news is that having an enlarged prostate does not affect your risk of developing prostate cancer.

Another bit of good news is that BPH is treatable and manageable. If you are having urinary symptoms and are wondering if you should see a doctor, you probably should.

•Mike Serebrennik is a physician by training and now a full-time entrepreneur, investor and writer. He is also a director of product development and sourcing at Lighthouse Medical Supplies, Ltd, a local company dedicated to helping patients and healthcare providers lower the cost and increase the quality of care.

Urinary problems: Your doctor may order a urine test and a blood test