Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is an enlargement of the prostate. The prostate is usually 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 level 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:
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:
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:
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:
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 decrease the size of the prostate by removing small portions of the prostate. These procedures may be used if medications were not able to reduce symptoms but surgery is not yet needed. Procedure options include:
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:
The urethra may be widened by:
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 August 2015 by Adrienne Carmack, MDLast Updated: 11/5/2014