Prostate problems have symptoms that are easy to identify. Many of them are caused by the obstruction of the urethra and the loss of bladder function. Symptoms vary with each individual but the most common symptoms involve changes in urination habits.
A weakened stream of urine, or interrupted stream
Having an urgency to urinate or leaking and dribbling
More frequent urination during the night
Some men who have enlarged prostates will not suffer any symptoms and others may face serious problems. Some men have enlarged prostates but do not have symptoms, while other men may have symptoms but their prostate is not too large.
A man may not know he has a problem until he stops urinating totally. This can happen if he has taken an over-the-counter decongestant drug. A side effect of sympathomimetic, the drug used in decongestants may prevent the bladder opening to relax to allow the urine to flow out.
Cold temperatures, alcohol, or long periods of inactivity can also cause retention of urine. If you are having any of these symptoms, contact your doctor to have the problem checked. In most cases, the symptoms can point to BPH or enlarged prostate, but sometimes it can mean a more serious condition that may need immediate treatment.
If symptoms are left untreated, more serious complications can be the result. The strain on the bladder and the retention of urine can cause kidney or bladder damage and urinary tract infections. It may lead to the inability to control urination, cause kidney or bladder stones and may resist treatment if not diagnosed early.
Diagnosis can be done with a routine checkup with your doctor. Part of that routine checkup will be a prostate check if you are over the age of 40. The doctor can feel the part of the prostate that is positioned next to the rectum by doing a rectal exam.
If the doctor suspects you have a problem with your prostate, you may get a referral to an urologist because they specialize in urinary tract problems. Several tests can be conducted to find any prostate problems.
Besides the digital rectal exam the doctor may perform a blood test that will show if there is a high number of PSA, a protein made by the prostate gland. If high levels are found it may signal prostate cancer.
A PSA test may be given to men who have successfully been treated for prostate cancer. There is a problem with using only a PSA test to discover prostate cancer. High levels of PSA in the blood could signal other benign prostate conditions.
Other tests to check for prostate cancer are a rectal ultrasound. A probe inserted into the rectum sends sound waves at the prostate gland and then displays the prostate on a screen. If the prostate looks unusual a needle biopsy can be done during the ultrasound.
The needle picks up a few pieces of the prostate gland and the doctor can exam them under a microscope. Your doctor will help you decide which tests you may need if you are having prostate problems.