As men reach their 50s and 60s, it’s common for them to develop benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or what’s commonly referred to as an enlarged prostate. It’s important to note the word “benign” in that name. It means that this condition isn’t cancer.
However, BPH and the problems it creates with urinating can be troubling. In addition, if left untreated, the condition can lead to urinary tract infections (UTIs), bladder stones, bladder damage, and kidney damage.
The prostate, which is part of the male reproductive system, sits in front of the rectum and below the bladder. It’s roughly the size of a walnut and surrounds the urethra, which is the tube through which urine moves from the bladder and out through the penis. The prostate’s primary job is to make semen that gets mixed with sperm produced in the testicles during ejaculation.
In most men, the prostate continues to grow throughout life. If it becomes big enough, it puts pressure on the urethra. That pressure eventually reduces the flow of urine. As a result, a man may experience:
- Weak urine stream
- Difficulty starting to urinate
- The sensation that they need to urinate urgently
- The feeling that the bladder is full even immediately after urinating
- Needing to start and stop urinating repeatedly
In especially severe cases, BPH can block the urethra completely, making it impossible to urinate. That’s a medical emergency that must be addressed promptly.
Doctors diagnose BPH based on your personal or family history, a physical examination that includes a digital rectal exam of the prostate, and various procedures and tests. These may include a PSA blood test to rule out prostate cancer, examination of the urethra with a scope, ultrasound, urinalysis, urodynamic pressure test, urinary blood test, and others.
While BPH can cause annoying symptoms and serious damage if left unchecked, there are multiple treatment options available. These include:
- Ongoing monitoring to determine if/when other actions are needed
- Prescription medications like alpha blockers, which relax the prostate, and testosterone blockers that modify hormone levels
- Therapies like water vapor thermal therapy and transurethral microwave therapy, which destroy prostate tissue and relieve pressure on the urethra
- Different surgeries, ranging from less invasive to more invasive
Most BPH treatments have the risk of side effects. For example, alpha blockers can cause lightheadedness, dizziness, fatigue, and trouble ejaculating. Testosterone blockers may cause a decrease in sexual desire or function. And surgeries can lead to infections.
However, if you choose to get treatment for BPH, your doctor will closely monitor your condition and work with you to address any side effects you may experience. This may include changing your medication, changing your dosage, or moving from medication to therapy or surgery.
Reducing BPH Risk
There’s no way to prevent the continued growth of the prostate. It happens naturally. But maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables may help reduce your risk of developing BPH since excess body fat affects hormone levels that may affect how rapidly the prostate grows.
Learn About Urology and Primary Care Services at Baptist Health
Ultimately, BPH is treatable, and you can get symptom relief and prevent further problems. Urologists and primary care doctors at Baptist Health have expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of benign prostate hyperplasia. If you believe you may have BPH, you should find a provider and make an appointment to talk about testing and, if a BPH diagnosis is made, treatment options.
Next Steps and Useful Resources: