Ask any man “What do you need a prostate gland for?”. Some may confidently list one or two functions, while others may simply shrug, indicating, “I don’t know.” What may surprise many men is the variety and number of tasks this small gland performs.
What do you need a prostate gland for?
Roughly the size of a walnut, the prostate gland is located in front of the rectum and just below the bladder, surrounding the urethra. Over the course of a day, it remains quite busy.
What is the prostate function
Here are several functions that the prostate gland regularly performs helping to keep the male reproductive system up and running:
Produces prostate fluid
The most critical function of the prostate is the production of a fluid that, together with sperm cells from the testicles and fluids from other glands, makes up semen
Expels semen out of the body
In addition to producing part of the seminal fluid for sperm to survive in, the muscles of the prostate are responsible for forcefully discharging sperm into the urethra helping to expel sperm outwards during ejaculation. The vigorous expulsion during ejaculation ensures that the sperm can travel far enough into a woman’s vagina to reach the fallopian tubes for fertilization of an egg.
Produces prostate specific antigen (PSA)
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a protein produced by epithelial cells of the prostate gland. PSA helps semen to become fluid carrying the sperm on out of the body.
The nerves within the prostate have a part in creating and maintain erections during sex. These nerves elicit extra blood to flow into the penis, helping it to swell and become firm.
The prostate acts as a filter, removing any toxins that could hinder sperm from performing its job.
Controls urine flow
The prostate is in charge of controlling urine flow down the urethra and stopping urine from leaving the bladder until it a man urinates. It also prevents urine from mixing with sperm when a man ejaculates. If the prostate becomes enlarged, this will put pressure on the urethra which can result in issues with urination for a man.
It is considered the “G-spot” of a man
The prostate gland has been referred to as a man’s “G-spot” and if stimulated during sex, can possibly lead to an intense orgasm for men.
How the prostate gland changes with aging
When a male baby is born, the prostate gland is tiny at only 1.5 grams and remains so until early puberty. Over the course of a man’s lifetime, the prostate undergoes two main growth spurts. The first growth spurt occurs in boys during puberty, typically between ages 12 to 14. Then, when the brain’s hypothalamus and pituitary gland decide to begin producing certain hormones during puberty, that the release of and surge of sex hormones (testosterone) made by the testicles, begins directly fueling and stimulating the prostate’s growth. From this time forward, the prostate gland is now destined to begin its role of producing seminal fluid (semen). This first growth spurt at the time of puberty, will double the size of the prostate gland to reach its mature size around age twenty, weighing about three-fourths to one ounce (20 to 30 grams) with a diameter of about 1.6 inches (4 cm) at its widest.
The second growth spurt occurs later on in a man’s life starting around age 25 and continues to slowly enlarge over a man’s lifetime. In fact, by the time most men reach 40 years of age, the once walnut-sized gland has now grown to roughly the size of an apricot. This dramatic shift in size is the bane of mostly men beyond the age of 50, having to deal with an enlarged prostate causing frequent nighttime bathroom trips, an urgent need to find a bathroom during the day, or difficulty starting a urine stream.
What conditions can affect prostate health?
There are three main conditions that can negatively affect a man’s prostate. One condition is called prostatitis which is an inflammation of the prostate gland. Prostatitis occurs more commonly in men between 30 and 50, even though it can affect men of all ages. Prostatitis has two types: Bacterial prostatitis and non-bacterial prostatitis.
A second condition affecting the prostate gland is benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). This condition is a non-cancerous enlargement of the gland and is found more commonly in older men past 50. BPH is not associated with prostate cancer as it is non-life threatening. The enlargement of the prostate leads to narrowing of the urethra which places pressure on the bladder’s base. Urine flow can be blocked causing symptoms of a weak urinary stream, frequent urination during the night, and difficulty starting a urine flow.
The third condition, which is the most serious, is prostate cancer. This disease is the second leading cause of cancer in men and the second leading cause of cancer death. In the early stages of prostate cancer, the tumor is confined within the gland and usually is unsymptomatic. If the cancer becomes more aggressive, cancer cells may escape the prostate gland and can spread to lymph nodes or bones. At this point, a man may have symptoms which include difficulty urinating, painful urination, blood in the urine, or a feeling of not being able to fully empty the bladder. It is strongly recommended that all men, beginning at the age of 40, have a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test which screens for prostate cancer.
How to maintain prostate health
To achieve a healthy prostate, men should practice preventative steps to keep their prostate healthy and cancer free. Here are the steps men need to know to achieve this:
- Reach and maintain a healthy body weight. It’s vital to pay special attention to reducing abdominal belly fat. This can be achieved by following a regular exercise routine that encourages building muscle mass and improving cardiohealth.
- Load up at meals and snacks on eating more fruits and vegetables. Lycopene, a phytonutrient found in tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon, and papaya, is a compound that improves prostate health and may reduce prostate cancer.
- Get outdoors and soak up some vitamin D. Our main source of vitamin D is sunlight, which has been shown reduce a man’s risk for prostate cancer.
- Snuff out smoking cigarettes. Smoking is a bad habit that may increase a man’s risk for prostate cancer by damaging circulating hormonal levels due to exposure to carcinogens found in cigarette smoke.
- All men should know their family history of prostate cancer. Men whose father or brother had prostate cancer have double the risk for developing this disease.
- Beginning at age 40, get screened yearly for prostate cancer by having both a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and a digital rectal exam (DRE).
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.