The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that forms part of the male reproductive system. The gland is made of two lobes, or regions, enclosed by an outer layer of tissue. The prostate is located in front of the rectum and just below the bladder, where urine is stored. The prostate also surrounds the urethra, the canal through which urine passes out of the body.
Scientists do not know all the prostate's functions. One of its main roles, though, is to squeeze fluid into the urethra as sperm move through during sexual climax. This fluid, which helps make up semen, energizes the sperm and makes the vaginal canal less acidic.
The cause of an enlarged prostate is not well understood. No definite information on risk factors for an enlarged prostate exists. For centuries, it has been known that BPH occurs mainly in older men and that it doesn't develop in men whose testes were removed before puberty. For this reason, some researchers believe that factors related to aging and the testes may spur the development of BPH.
(For more information about the possible causes of an enlarged prostate, see the full eMedTV article Cause of Enlarged Prostate.)
Many symptoms of an enlarged prostate stem from obstruction of the urethra and gradual loss of bladder function, which results in incomplete emptying of the bladder. Symptoms vary, but the most common ones involve changes or problems with urination, such as:
- A hesitant, interrupted, weak stream
- Urgency and leaking or dribbling
- More frequent urination, especially at night.
(Click Enlarged Prostate Symptoms for more information on the symptoms of an enlarged prostate.)