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Five Myths About Men's Health

Men can devel­op a vari­ety of uri­nary symp­toms or changes with their prostate gland as they age. Most don’t seek med­ical treat­ment for these issues, treat­ing fre­quent night­ly trips to the bath­room and oth­er symp­toms as an inevitable part of the aging process. Devel­op­ing con­di­tions like benign pro­sta­t­ic hyper­pla­sia (an enlarged prostate), uri­nary incon­ti­nence, over­ac­tive blad­der or low­ered testos­terone lev­els does­n’t mean you should suf­fer in silence. These con­di­tions are like­ly to wors­en over time and if left untreat­ed, can lead to oth­er health prob­lems and have a seri­ous impact on your over­all health. Depend­ing on the sever­i­ty of your symp­toms and their impact on your dai­ly rou­tine, there are treat­ment options avail­able to help. Urol­o­gist, Vikas Desai, MD, shares some of the mis­con­cep­tions about these com­mon men’s health con­di­tions and treat­ment that are avail­able so you can enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle as you age.

Myth #1: If you devel­op Benign Pro­sta­t­ic Hyper­pla­sia (BPH), the sever­i­ty of your uri­nary symp­toms depends on the size of your prostate and hav­ing an enlarged prostate increas­es your chances of devel­op­ing prostate cancer.

Fact: BPH is com­mon con­di­tion, impact­ing near­ly 70 per­cent of men by the age of 60, which caus­es your prostate gland to become enlarged. As your prostate gland grows, it may begin to apply pres­sure on your ure­thra and even­tu­al­ly impairs or blocks the flow of urine from your body. This can cause symp­toms includ­ing dif­fi­cul­ty start­ing to uri­nate, a weak stream, increased urge and fre­quen­cy to uri­nate and dif­fi­cul­ty ful­ly emp­ty­ing your blad­der. In some men, their prostate gland becomes enlarged with­out hav­ing a sig­nif­i­cant impact on their blad­der or uri­nary tract and as a result their symp­toms are min­i­mal. In oth­er men, their prostate gland may be only slight­ly enlarged but it impacts their uri­nary sys­tem enough to cause severe symptoms. 

Hav­ing an enlarged prostate gland does not mean you are at a high­er risk for prostate can­cer, how­ev­er, if left untreat­ed, BPH can dam­age to your blad­der and you are more like­ly to expe­ri­ence chron­ic uri­nary tract infec­tions. If you expe­ri­ence uri­nary symp­toms that may be caused by BPH, a urol­o­gist can per­form a phys­i­cal exam, assess the sever­i­ty of your symp­toms and help you select a treat­ment that’s right for you.

Myth #2: Erec­tile dys­func­tion (ED) is due to an issue in your groin or is all in your head and has no con­nec­tion to your lifestyle or phys­i­cal health.

Fact: Dif­fi­cul­ty get­ting or main­tain­ing an erec­tion can be frus­trat­ing and embar­rass­ing. Many men assume that the issue stems sole­ly from their groin area, or chalk it up to men­tal block. While ED can be caused by a vari­ety issues includ­ing stress, if the prob­lem per­sists for more than three months, you should not ignore it. Pro­longed peri­ods of ED could be a symp­tom of oth­er under­ly­ing health con­di­tions includ­ing ele­vat­ed blood pres­sure or high cho­les­terol. Over time these con­di­tions can dam­age your blood ves­sels and restrict blood flow through­out your body, includ­ing to your penis, mak­ing achiev­ing an erec­tion dif­fi­cult. Unhealthy habits like smok­ing can also dam­age blood ves­sels. Quit­ting smok­ing may help reduce your erec­tion dif­fi­cul­ties over time. Oth­er chron­ic con­di­tions like dia­betes, low testos­terone or depres­sion are also linked to ED.

It is impor­tant to alert your doc­tor if you expe­ri­ence ED so they can help you to rule out oth­er under­ly­ing health con­di­tions that may be con­tribut­ing to your symptoms.

Myth #3: Devel­op­ing uri­nary incon­ti­nence (UI) or over­ac­tive blad­der (OAB) is more of a nui­sance and not a health problem.

FACT: If left untreat­ed, UI or OAB can cause seri­ous health and social con­se­quences. Symp­toms like lack of blad­der con­trol and increased uri­nary urge and fre­quen­cy caused by UI or OAB can cause you to avoid cer­tain activ­i­ties and become social­ly with­drawn, which can increase your risk of depres­sion over time. Addi­tion­al­ly, night­ly trips to the bath­room can put you at an increased risk for falls and frac­tures that may lead to oth­er long-term health issues.

If you devel­op an increase urge and fre­quen­cy to urine or have dif­fi­cul­ty hold­ing your urine, you should speak to a urol­o­gist to deter­mine what treat­ment options are avail­able. In many cas­es, sim­ple lifestyle mod­i­fi­ca­tions includ­ing reduc­ing your flu­id intake and estab­lish­ing a bath­room sched­ule, along with cer­tain med­ica­tions, can help you to man­age or elim­i­nate your symp­toms, allow­ing you to remain active and increase your qual­i­ty of life while reduc­ing your risk of devel­op­ing oth­er health con­di­tions down the road.

Myth #4: Testos­terone lev­els indi­cate how mas­cu­line you are and high­er or low­er that aver­age lev­els of testos­terone aren’t a big deal.

Fact: Your testos­terone lev­el fluc­tu­ates often and can be impact­ed by a vari­ety of oth­er fac­tors. Low­er testos­terone does not mean you are less man­ly. Your diet, activ­i­ty lev­el and cer­tain health con­di­tions includ­ing obe­si­ty or sleep apnea can cause your testos­terone lev­els to drop. It is impor­tant to deter­mine what is caus­ing your low testos­terone before select­ing a treat­ment. Keep­ing your testos­terone with­in a nor­mal range is an essen­tial part of main­tain­ing your over­all health. Fail­ing to address low testos­terone can increase your risk of osteo­poro­sis, heart dis­ease and depres­sion. If you are con­sid­er­ing testos­terone sup­ple­ments, it is impor­tant to do so under the care of a med­ical pro­fes­sion­al because in some cas­es these sup­ple­ments and a high­er-than-aver­age testos­terone lev­el can have adverse health impli­ca­tions. For some testos­terone sup­ple­ments can cause sleep apnea to wors­en or increase your risk of devel­op­ing car­dio­vas­cu­lar prob­lems. Using testos­terone med­ica­tions to boost your ath­let­ic per­for­mance can also cause your tes­ti­cles to shrink and have a neg­a­tive impact on your fer­til­i­ty. Your urol­o­gist can help you deter­mine what is caus­ing your low testos­terone and which treat­ment option is best, and safest for you.

Myth #5: Prostate can­cer does­n’t run in my fam­i­ly, so I don’t need to wor­ry about it, or be screened.

Fact: While fam­i­ly his­to­ry of prostate can­cer increas­es your chances of devel­op­ing prostate can­cer, age is the largest risk fac­tor. Prostate can­cer devel­ops in one in every sev­en men as they age and often does not cause any notice­able symp­toms until it has reached a more advanced stage. This means it is impor­tant to take steps to reduce your risk now and be aware of the warn­ing signs. Stay­ing active, eat­ing a bal­anced diet and main­tain­ing a healthy weight are easy ways you can reduce your risk of devel­op­ing prostate can­cer in the future. You should alert your pri­ma­ry care provider or con­sult with a urol­o­gist if you notice chances with your urine includ­ing uri­nary fre­quen­cy, dis­com­fort when uri­nat­ing or blood in your urine to deter­mine the cause and begin treatment.

While it is not uncom­mon for your blad­der or prostate to change as you age, you should not ignore the symp­toms. Many men’s health con­di­tions can be treat­ed eas­i­ly with lifestyle changes and med­ical care includ­ing med­ica­tions and min­i­mal­ly inva­sive pro­ce­dures. If you expe­ri­ence any changes relat­ed to your blad­der or prostate, or have oth­er male-spe­cif­ic con­cerns, meet­ing with a urol­o­gist can help you min­i­mize the impact symp­toms have on your dai­ly life and keep you healthy and active as you age. To learn more about our urol­o­gy team, or to sched­ule an appoint­ment, vis­it dupagemed​ical​group​.com/​s​e​r​v​i​c​e​s​/​u​r​o​logy/ or call 6307901221.