7 things to know about an enlarged prostate and how to avoid it

Whether King Charles II has left you curious or you want to know how to avoid the problem, here's a look at what you need to know

19 January 2024 - 16:17
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Britain's King Charles has received treatment for an enlarged prostate.
Britain's King Charles has received treatment for an enlarged prostate.

The Princess of Wales and King Charles II were hospitalised this week — the princess for abdominal surgery and Charles received treatment for an enlarged prostate.

Known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or benign prostate enlargement (BPE), it affects many men over 50. The prostate is a small gland between the penis and bladder. While you might freak out and think this is a form of cancer, do not be alarmed. An enlarged prostate causes difficulty urinating or not fully emptying the bladder.

An enlarged prostate can be caused by hormonal changes many men experience as they grow older, contrary to assumptions that only women are affected by their hormones.


While ageing is a factor, experts at Penn Medicine struggle with understanding the true causes of BPE. Changes in the cells of the prostate and shifting testosterone levels are the main causes of the problem.


Can an enlarged prostate kill you? The short answer is no, this is not a deadly disease and no expert in the field has made links to other fatal diseases such as cancer. The Urology Medical Group says untreated BPE can cause urinary tract infections, bladder stones, a complete blockage to the urethra or damage to one's kidneys.

The latter can cause additional symptoms such as back and lower abdominal pains, blood in the urine and pains, chills or fever when urinating.

However, there have been cases of malpractice. The New York Times reported on a 61-year-old who had a nearly fatal experience when his extreme case was not treated.


Even after gender reassignment procedures, transwomen can also get BPE. Cancer awareness group Prostate Cancer UK shared that while it might not cause urinary issues, it can occur due to the balance of oestrogen and testosterone causing changes to the gland.


Not all men are bound to get BPE. Penn Med shares there are cases where men who had their testicles removed do not experience it. BPE can be experienced by many men who might not show symptoms, which Jeremy Grummet of Monash University said is due to some men not talking about it, leaving them in the dark about their health. The European Association of Urology conducted research that found men generally have little information about prostate health.


Recent studies have found black men are most affected by BPE while Asian men are lower on the list. “BPE is associated with heart disease, use of drugs known as beta-blockers and lack of physical exercise. Fat appears to be important as it induces inflammation, which in turn causes BPE. BPE is more common in obese men, and certain dietary fats may induce inflammation,” says urologist Marc Luciando.

A 2016 study found that there is 50% prevalence for men older than 60 in South Africa.


Erectile dysfunction can arise from BPE. Some symptoms may include reduced sexual satisfaction and a low sperm count. The Midwest Institute of Non-Surgical Therapy says some treatments that help with symptoms of an enlarged prostate run the risk of causing erectile dysfunction. They note Proscar and Avodart can cause these problems.


As with many other medical issues, BPE can be avoided through exercise and a healthy diet. Healthline identifies the six foods to help prevent future issues:

  • tofu
  • avocados
  • tomatoes
  • bell peppers
  • salmon
  • sesame seeds

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