The prostate is a walnut-sized gland in men that produces fluid that is a component of semen. The gland has two or more lobes–or sections–enclosed by an outer layer of tissue. Located in front of the rectum and just below the bladder, where urine is stored, the prostate surrounds the urethra, which is the canal through which urine passes out of the body.

The most common prostate problem in men under 50 is inflammation or infection, which is called prostatitis. Prostate enlargement is another common problem. Since the prostate normally continues to grow as a man matures, prostate enlargement, also called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH, is the most common prostate problem for men over 50. Older men are at risk for prostate cancer as well, but it is much less common than BPH.

Sometimes, different prostate problems have similar symptoms. For example, one man with prostatitis and another with BPH may both have a frequent, urgent need to urinate. Other men with BPH may have different symptoms. For example, one man may have trouble beginning a stream of urine, while another may have to get up to go to the bathroom frequently at night. A man in the early stages of prostate cancer may have no symptoms at all. This confusing array of symptoms makes a thorough medical examination and testing very important. Diagnosing the problem may require a series of tests.

Male urinary tract, front and side views

Talking to Your Doctor or Nurse
Letting your doctor or nurse know you have a problem is the first step. Try to give as many details about the problem as you can, including when it began and how often it occurs. Tell the doctor or nurse whether you have had recurrent urinary tract infections or symptoms such as pain after ejaculation or during urination, sudden strong urges, or hesitancy and weak urine stream. You should talk about the medicines you take, both prescription medicines and those you can buy over the counter, because they might be part of the problem. You should also talk about how much fluid you typically drink each day, whether you use caffeine or alcohol, and whether your urine has an unusual color or odor. In turn, the doctor or nurse will ask you about your general medical history, including any major illnesses or s