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The Prostate Puppeteer

How to Handle Being on the Receiving End of a Prostate Exam

Not my actual genitals.

I've been concerned about my health for some time. I'm about to turn fifty-one, and about a year ago now, I noticed an ever-present urge to pee. I'd go, and after a while groaning and straining, a very little bit of urine would come out. Then about five minutes later, the urge to pee again would come back. I would repeat this series of actions, over and over, holding on for as long as I could while at work, or trying my best to ignore the urge when I was trying to get to sleep at night.

Recently, I had a fever, and pain in my back, in my kidneys. I went to see my doctor, thankfully free in the United Kingdom due to our wonderful National Health Service (slowly being privatised by our profit motivated conservative government, but that's another article). I was prescribed a course of antibiotics, and a urine sample was sent for further testing.

Four days later, and I still felt very unwell, in constant aching pain. I went back and saw another doctor at the surgery. I was concerned after reading online about the symptoms of prostate cancer. Even more so as my father died of undiagnosed cancer at the age of fifty-five.

The doctor explained that a blood test could be done to establish my PSA levels (prostate-specific antigen). However, that could not be done for at least another two weeks, as my kidney infection would change the prostate specific antigen count. To err on the side of caution, he recommended a prostate exam. Now, if you ever wondered what it feels like to be a puppet or a muppet, here is your chance. You'll be asked to lie naked, on your side, and pull your knees up as high as you can. The doctor will have gloves on and lubrication as he inserts a couple of fingers up your anus to assess your prostate. (ASS-ess?). This is not a comfortable feeling for many men, or indeed any men I have discussed this with. He didn't even buy me flowers or take me out for dinner first! My prostate he declared, was of a normal size for a man my age. How big is that, I wondered? They should have some kind of size chart available, showing the average size of your prostate at different stages of your life.

We arranged a blood test for two weeks time. I'll come back and post about the results when I get them. Later, I met a friend for coffee. He said, "Men of our age, just have to accept that doctors will want to stick their hands up our arses more frequently as we get older."

I guess he's right. Something for young men to look forward to, and me to get used to.

My blood test was followed by a phone call, about two days later, from the doctor’s surgery. I have very low potassium levels, and I had to return again for a second blood test. The nurse, very personable and professional, tried to reassure me that there is probably nothing much to worry about. Apparently, potassium levels in blood samples do start to change fairly quickly, especially if the sample isn’t transported to the lab and tested promptly enough.

Obviously, I did exactly what you shouldn’t do, and googled ‘what can cause low potassium.’ The first result, from the Mayo Clinic site, gave me this information:

‘Low potassium (hypokalemia) has many causes. The most common cause is excessive potassium loss in urine due to prescription medications that increase urination. Also known as water pills or diuretics, these types of medications are often prescribed for people who have high blood pressure or heart disease.

Vomiting, diarrhea or both also can result in excessive potassium loss from the digestive tract. Occasionally, low potassium is caused by not getting enough potassium in your diet.

Causes of potassium loss include:

  • Alcohol use (excessive)
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis (high levels of blood acids called ketones)
  • Diarrhea
  • Diuretics (water retention relievers)
  • Excessive laxative use
  • Excessive sweating
  • Folic acid deficiency
  • Primary aldosteronism
  • Some antibiotic use
  • Vomiting

And an NHS site gave me this advice on what to eat to increase my potassium levels:

  • Fruit, particularly bananas
  • Vegetables
  • Pulses
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Milk
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Bread

Potassium affects the function of all your muscles, most importantly your heart muscles. That means low potassium can lead to heart arrhythmia or attack, especially in those who already have heart problems. Luckily, I haven’t currently got any heart problems.

Diving deeper into my search results, low potassium levels in the blood are associated with adrenal cancer.

Still awaiting the results of my second blood test, but as they say, no news is good news.

#Health #Journal #Prostate #Potassium

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