Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is an enlargement of the prostate. The prostate is a walnut-sized gland located at the neck of the bladder. It surrounds the urethra, a tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body.
An enlarged prostate puts pressure on the urethra and can make it difficult for urine to pass. Eventually, the urethra may become completely closed off.
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The exact cause of BPH is unknown. It may be related to natural changes in hormone levels that occur as men age.
The enlargement is not due to cancer.
BPH is most likely to occur in men aged 50 years or older. Other factors that may increase your chance of having BPH include:
- Metabolic syndrome
—A condition marked by elevated blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, and body weight, especially weight centered around the midsection.
- Diet high in fats and red meat
Enlarged prostate itself does not cause symptoms. Symptoms develop when the prostate gland puts enough pressure on the urethra to interfere with the flow of urine.
Symptoms usually increase in severity over time and may include:
- Difficulty starting to urinate
- Weak urination stream
- Dribbling at the end of urination
- Sensation of incomplete bladder emptying
- Urge to urinate frequently, especially at night
- Deep discomfort in the lower abdomen
- Urge incontinence
—strong, sudden urge to urinate
You will be asked about your medical history and symptoms. If BPH is suspected, a digital rectal exam may be done. A gloved finger is inserted into the rectum to assess the prostate.
To assess problems with urine flow your doctor may recommend:
- Urine flow study
- Cystometrogram—a functional study of the way your bladder fills and empties
- Post-void residual volume test—measures whether you can empty your bladder completely
Images of the prostate and urinary tract may be taken with:
Treatment is not needed for mild cases. Most men with BPH eventually request medical intervention to help with urinary symptoms.
Medication is often the first line of treatment to help reduce urinary symptoms. Medication options include:
- 5 alpha-reductase inhibitors—to shrink the prostate, which may decrease some urination problems
- Alpha-blockers—to relax the muscles around the neck of the bladder and the prostate to improve urine flow
- Antimuscarinics—to relax the bladder muscles, which helps to reduce the urge to urinate frequently
Phosphodiesterase-5 enzyme inhibitor —
medication that can also improve the symptoms of BPH
Your doctor may also recommend avoiding certain medications. For example, decongestant drugs containing alpha-agonists such as pseudoephedrine can worsen BPH symptoms.
Minimally invasive procedures can be through the urethra. This type of surgery generally has shorter recovery time and less risk of damage to surrounding tissue than open surgeries. These options may be used if medications were not able to reduce symptoms but surgery is not needed. Procedure options include:
- Transurethral microwave thermotherapy (TUMT)—uses microwaves to destroy excess prostate tissue
- Transurethral laser therapy—uses highly focused laser energy to remove prostate tissue
- Urolift—small devices are implanted to hold the prostate tissue out of the way of the urethra
- Transurethral RF thermal therapy—uses heated water vapor to destroy extra prostate tissue
Surgery may be advised if medications and noninvasive procedures are not effective. The goal of surgery is to remove excess prostate tissue or widen the pathway for urine.
Portions of the prostate may be removed with:
- Transurethral surgical resection of the prostate (TURP)—a scope is inserted through the penis to remove the enlarged portion of the prostate
- Open surgery—removal of the enlarged portion of the prostate through an incision, usually in the lower abdominal area, more invasive
The urethra may be widened by:
- Transurethral incision of the prostate (TUIP)—small cuts are made in the neck of the bladder to widen the urethra
Prostatic stents—tiny metal coils are inserted into urethra to widen it and keep it open
- Usually used for men who do not want to take medication or have surgery
- Does not appear to be a good long-term option
Some herbal products have been studied as possible BPH treatments. Check with your doctor before using any supplements or alternative treatments. Herbs that may have some benefit include:
Prostate enlargement occurs naturally with age. It is more common in men with obesity and low HDL cholesterol levels. Maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthful diet may prevent prostate enlargement.
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Last reviewed September 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Rimas Lukas, MD
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