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causes of prostate enlargement in UK

Prostate enlargement is a process that affects many men as they get older - particularly those who are aged 50 or above. The gland's position in the body - just below the bladder - means that when it swells it can potentially put pressure on the urethra, which is the tube that passes urine through to the penis.

If this happens then you may experience changes in your urinary habits, namely needing to use the toilet more frequently or feeling like you have to strain when you do.

The process may also mean you notice blood in your urine flow, and some men may find themselves regularly waking up during the night needing to urinate.

Yet these complications will not affect all men whose prostates start to swell, and in many cases a man may have an enlarged gland without noticing any signs to suggest so.

One thing it's important to realise is that having an enlarged prostate doesn't necessarily mean you're more likely to suffer from prostate cancer - indeed, there is no link between swelling in the gland and the development of cancerous cells.

However, while much is known about what issues prostate enlargement can cause, there is no definitive understanding of exactly what makes the gland begin to swell. Despite this, efforts have been made to explain why the process happens.

What might cause prostate enlargement?

Various bodies of research suggest that there is a link between hormonal changes which occur in the body and enlargement of the prostate - and this is why the condition has been linked to age.

One specific theory is that as a man gets older, the levels of a hormone called dihydrotestosterone in the body increase, and it is thought that this could stimulate prostate growth.

Another suggestion is that the process is actually linked to two hormones - testosterone and oestrogen. This school of thought relies on the way in which males produce less testosterone when they're older, which means that they have a higher proportion of oestrogen in their body as a result.

The idea here is that the relative increase of the oestrogen hormone may cause prostate growth, and again this draws a link between enlargement of the gland and a man's age.

Are some people more prone to experiencing prostate enlargement?

Unlike some health conditions, there is no definitive link between lifestyle choices and swelling of the prostate, although some men may be more prone to the process depending on other factors.

For example, rates of prostate enlargement are higher among men who suffer from high blood pressure and diabetes. However, with both of these conditions also being linked to the ageing process, there may not be a direct link between these affliction and swelling of the prostate gland.

Researchers are continuing to work on other explanations that could improve our understanding of why prostate enlargement occurs, with some suggesting that it may be linked to a man's diet.