Prostate Diseases

The prostate is a gland of the male reproductive system, about the size of a walnut, and is located in front of the rectum and below the bladder. There are a few different disorders of the prostate that are clinically distinct.

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) reports that benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH, is enlargement of the prostate, which is very common as a man ages. This condition is also sometimes called benign prostatic hypertrophy. The prostate grows first during puberty, then again when men are about 25 years of age; the prostate continues to grow as a man ages, but generally does not cause problems before age 40. However, as many as 90 percent of men in their 70s and 80s have BPH symptoms. The enlarged prostate can press on the urethra, making urination difficult. BPH can cause problems with emptying of the bladder, causing the wall of the bladder to become thick and inflamed. The bladder can then become weaker, further causing urination to become difficult, and the urge to urinate increases, especially at night. Severe BPH can cause chronic bladder infections and even damage to the bladder or kidneys.


Merck Manuals, an online medical library, reports that prostatitis is actually a group of disorders where the prostate gland becomes inflamed. Prostatitis causes the same urinary symptoms of BPH and prostate cancer, and pain in the region of the prostate gland may also occur. Prostatitis can result from bacterial infection, which is treated with antibiotics. More commonly, prostatitis is caused by bodily processes that are as of yet poorly understood, including production of factors that cause inflammation, and spasms of the urogenital diaphragm.

Prostate Cancer

Approximately 186,000 men in the United States are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, according to the National Cancer Institute. These numbers make it the second most common type of cancer affecting men in the U.S. Prostate cancer occurs when the cells of the prostate begin to grow uncontrollably, damaging the normal tissue surrounding them. The symptoms of prostate cancer include the same urinary problems as BPH and prostatitis. In addition, prostate cancer can cause difficulty maintaining an erection, pain during urination, blood in the urine or semen, and abnormal pain in the lower back, thighs or hips.

About this Author

Leah DiPlacido, a medical writer with more than nine years of biomedical writing experience, received her doctorate in immunology from Yale University. Her work is published in Journal of Immunology, Arthritis and Rheumatism, and Journal of Experimental Medicine. She writes about disease for doctors, scientists, and the general public.