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  The Prostate Gland

What is it?

The prostate is a component of the male urinary and reproductive tracts and is composed of smooth muscle cells, glandular cells, and stromal cells.

Where is it located?

The prostate gland sits underneath the bladder and wraps around the upper portion of the male urethra. Its location is just in front of the rectum, allowing it to be physically examined by a doctor's finger tip.

What are its functions?

The glandular tissue produces a milky fluid which mixes with other fluid and sperm to make semen. The gland also contains an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase that converts testosterone into its active form, dihydrotestosterone. The smooth muscle of the prostate and the bladder neck makes up the important internal sphincter (involuntary), giving passive urinary control.

What are the common urological conditions of the prostate?

The common urological conditions are enlargement (BPH or benign prostatic hyperplasia), inflammation/infection (prostatitis), and prostate cancer (adenocarcinoma of the prostate).

It is estimated that as many as 25 percent of men may develop symptoms secondary to BPH during their lifetime. The tissue overgrowth occurs in the central area of the prostate called the transitional zone, which wraps around the urethra. The symptoms commonly associated with BPH are sensation of incomplete bladder emptying, a weak urinary stream, needing to strain to urinate, and urinary frequency, urgency, hesitancy and intermittency. These symptoms are collectively called lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS).

Prostatitis is common. Acute bacterial prostatitis is the most commonly diagnosed urinary tract infection in men. The most common type of prostatitis, however, is a chronic, non-bacterial form.

Approximately 180,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year. Whereas BPH involves the transitional zone, prostate cancer usually occurs in the outer area of the prostate called the peripheral zone. For more information of this topic, click prostate cancer.

Glossary Terms

adenocarcinoma - cancer developing from glandular cells;
bacterial - involving or due to bacteria;
benign - not cancerous, not malignant;
cancer - an abnormal growth that can invade nearby structures or spread to other parts of the body;
cell(s) - the basic makeup of structures and organs of the body;
frequency - having frequent need or sensation to urinate;
hesitancy - delay at the beginning of urination;
intermittency - need to stop and start again several times while urinating;
hyperplasia - refers to excessive cell replication or multiplication;
lower urinary tract - includes the bladder, prostate and urethra in men;
malignant - cancerous;
prostatitis - inflammation of the prostate with or without infection;
testosterone - male hormone;
upper urinary tract - includes the kidneys and ureters;
urethra - the channel through which urine passes from the bladder to the outside;
ureter(s) - narrow tube draining urine from the kidneys down to the bladder;
urgency - needing to urinate immediately;
urination - the act or process of passing urine from the bladder to the outside;

*  This information is not intended to substitute for a consultation with a urologist. It is offered to educate patients on the basis of urological conditions in order to get the most out of their office visits and consultations. Please see our web page disclaimer for addition information.


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