What is the main cause of prostate enlargement? Does an enlarged prostate affect bowel movements? Can you feel if your prostate is enlarged?


The main cause of prostate enlargement is primarily a function of genetics and time. If there is family history of prostate enlargement it is more likely you will experience symptoms related to prostate enlargement. Those over 60 years old are more likely to experience symptoms related to prostate enlargement, though some can experience symptoms as early as their 40s. Usually prostate enlargement happens very gradually as you get older.

The prostate is a gland that sits at the bottom of the bladder and wraps around the urethra. The urethra is like a tube, where urine exits through from the bladder to the outside of the body. The prostate glands are part of the male reproductive system. They produce portions of semen (ejaculate) and surround the ducts that carry semen into the urethra during orgasm/ejaculation.


Prostate growth is ultimately secondary to a specific hormone known as DHT (dihydrotestosterone). Although testosterone and this specific form of testosterone, DHT, are needed for normal prostate growth, excessive or extra testosterone will not necessarily cause overgrowth of the prostate gland. The absence of DHT within the prostate gland will prevent or potentially diminish prostate growth.

There are no known specific foods or diets or activities that consistently increase or decrease prostate gland size. However, there are many foods or beverages that might further exacerbate the urinary symptoms caused by prostate enlargement. As the prostate gets larger it may obstruct or block the flow of urine, resulting in a variety of problems or symptoms related to urination. These include caffeine, carbonated beverages, spicy foods, sweet/sour foods, and alcohol. Constipation, which is often secondary to diet or dehydration, and nicotine may also worsen urinary symptoms.

An enlarged prostate can affect bowel movement but is not common. The prostate rests under the urinary bladder, just in front of the lower rectum. Because they are so close to one another, it is not unusual for one to affect the other. If the prostate is very enlarged, it could press on the rectum, making it more difficult to empty. But generally, the prostate doesn’t get that large.

Difficulty with bowel movements may be a perception that is due to sharing muscles that provide control of emptying your bladder and rectum. If one feels the need to strain to empty their bladder, it can also feel like there is also difficulty emptying the rectum. An overactive lower intestine often is associated with an overactive bladder. When the lower digestive tract is irritated, the prostate often is as well, producing an irritative, inflammatory condition known as prostatitis, which can cause pain and difficulty urinating.


When your doctor or urologist places a finger in your rectum to feel your prostate gland, he/she can estimate the dimensions and overall size of your prostate gland and assess for other abnormalities. Other ways to assess for prostate gland size include diagnostic imaging, specifically ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan, which are specialized x-rays that can measure dimensions of the prostate gland more reliably. Also, cystoscopy (putting a camera in the bladder through the urethra) can also be used to estimate prostate size or length and evaluate for blockages from the prostate or other causes of urinary symptoms.

Reviewing your symptoms and examination with your doctor or urologist is the best way to determine if you have an enlarged prostate and if additional tests/treatments need to be pursued. No two patients are the same and it is important to find a treatment plan best for you.


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