Have you noticed more frequent visits to the bathroom, or experienced difficulty starting urination? These problems could be disturbing. In this article, we speak to urologist Dr Jimmy Beng to learn more about a possible reason behind them: an enlarged prostate.
An enlarged prostate is one that has grown abnormally, from the healthy size of a walnut to potentially even that of a lemon. Anatomically, the prostate gland sits below the bladder and near the base of the penis. It secretes nutrient-rich fluids that protect and nourish the sperms (as semen), and contracts to push the semen out during ejaculation.
“Prostate enlargement by itself does not need treatment, but the patient will need to consult a urologist if it is obstructing urine flow or causing various flow issues,” explains Dr Beng.
As the prostate gland grows, it puts increasingly more pressure on the bladder and urethra that can lead to urination problems many aging men may experience.
The most common condition for the prostate gland is Benign Prostate Hyperplasia (BPH). This is a non-cancerous enlargement.
A normal prostate gland should feel smooth, with a rubbery surface and a soft groove down the middle. “For an enlarged prostate, doctors may find it firmer, or bulging with an enlarged feel (by experience),” shared Dr Beng.
The cause of BPH is not fully clear but it has been attributed to the build-up over decades of a male hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which encourages prostate swelling.
“However, the problem also runs genetically amongst male members of the family,” added Dr Beng.
Statistics have shown that one in two men above 50 years of age suffer from an enlarged prostate, and the prevalence in Singapore has increased over the years especially with a greater life expectancy.
Risk factors to look out for 
Symptoms to look out for
If you start to experience more than two of the above-mentioned symptoms, especially the more severe ones like blood in urine, you should visit a doctor for further investigation.
Methods of Examination 
For mild conditions, doctors often recommend a wait-and-see approach that involves observing the symptoms, adjusting fluid intake, increasing physical activity and eating more fruits and vegetables. If that is not enough and symptoms persist, further treatment will be prescribed.
They come in two forms: those that help to block the production of DHT and those that relaxes the prostate. Drugs that relax the prostate are called alpha blockers and they often act as the first line of treatment. It works by relaxing the muscles of the prostate and the bladder neck, easing the urine flow.
Surgical methods include transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) and open surgery. TURP involves surgical removal of the inner portion of a prostate via the urethra. 90 percent of all prostate surgeries are done this way. The main benefit is its minimally- invasive nature, which quickens recovery time and lessens discomfort.
Open surgery is opted for when a prostate becomes too large to be inoperable through the transurethral route. This is the most invasive procedure and will require a longer hospital stay and recovery time.
Thermodilatation Microwave Therapy
Thermodilatation Microwave Therapy is a non-surgical and medication-free outpatient treatment exclusively available at Farrer Park Hospital that provides BPH symptomatic relief to the patient.
This procedure uses low heat to shrink the prostate tissue and takes about 45 minutes under local anaesthesia. It has been proven to be safe (with minimal sexual side effects), effective with high patient tolerance and more affordable compared to surgery.
Will BPH re-occur after treatment?
“After treatment, the condition of a benign prostate enlargement can recur over 10 years or more. This is because the capsule is intact, which means the growth of the glandular portion can regrow,” emphasises Dr Jimmy Beng.
However, majority of elderly patients who undergo treatment will go through life without further prostate flow problems.
Keeping Your Prostate Happy
It is important to care for your prostate health so that you can enjoy high quality of life deep into your silver years. The key is to eat in moderation and exercise frequently. In the event that you develop symptoms associated with BPH, do seek medical help immediately as early detection and treatment will help to increase your chances of recovery.