Prostate gland: what it is and what is its function?
The prostate gland
The gland is only found in males and is situated in front of the rectum and below the urinary bladder. It is the size of a walnut and weighs between 7 and 16 grams. The urethra, also known as the tube that brings urine from the bladder to the penis, runs through the centre of the prostate gland.
The prostate gland function
The prostate gland is important for male fertility, as it secretes fluids to nourish and protect sperm. During an ejaculation this fluid will be squeezed together with the sperm cells through the urethra and out the penis. This fluid is alkaline to protect the sperm from the acid environment of the vaginal tract and to increase the lifespan of the sperm and better protect the genetic material. The gland has a muscular band surrounding it, and is contracted during ejaculation. This gland is predominately regulated by a metabolite of testosterone. Females also have a gland with similar function known as the paraurethral gland, which also expels fluids during an orgasm.
As the prostate gland grows (common with older age) so does the risk of the gland pressuring the urethra, which can lead to difficulties urinating. This growth of the gland is often referred to as prostate enlargement. One of the consequences an enlarged prostate might trigger is a strong need to urinate, paired with an uneven urinary flow, as the bladder muscles contract more powerfully.
An increase in prostate size might be caused by several factors including hormone fluctuations, growth factors and other cell signalling pathways. The exact cause of prostate growth is not yet known.
Prostate cancer is related to cancer occurring in the prostate gland.