by Rick Alan
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. The gland is part of the male reproductive system. The enlargement is not due to cancer.
The exact cause of BPH is unknown. It may be related to changes in hormone levels as men age. Eventually, the prostate becomes so enlarged that it puts pressure on the urethra. This causes the urethra to narrow or close completely.
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. The main risk factor for BPH is being over 50 years old.
Narrowing of the urethra caused by growth of the prostate causes the symptoms of BPH. Symptoms usually increase in severity over time.
BPH diagnosis is based on:
Other tests may include:
Testing for prostate specific antigen (PSA) is often used to screen for prostate cancer. However, BPH may cause a lesser elevation in PSA levels. This can raise false concerns about the presence of cancer.
Treatment is not needed for mild cases. Most men with BPH eventually request medical intervention.
Medicines prescribed to treat BPH include:
Each group of medicines has different side effects. Enzyme inhibitors may cause decreased sexual desire and problems with erection. Alpha-blockers may cause decreased blood pressure, dizziness, and stuffy nose. Antimuscarinics can cause dry mouth, constipation, dry eyes, trouble emptying the bladder, and confusion.
If you have BPH, you should not take decongestant drugs containing alpha-agonists (eg, pseudoephedrine). These drugs can worsen BPH symptoms.
These are used when drugs are ineffective, but the patient is not ready for surgery. Nonsurgical treatments include:
Surgical procedures include:
Examples of herbal products that have been studied as a possible BPH treatments include:
If you are diagnosed with BPH, follow your doctor's instructions.
National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Clearinghouse
The Prostate Institute of America
Prostate Cancer Research Institute
Canadian Urological Association
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Last reviewed September 2012 by Adrienne Carmack, MD
Last Updated: 09/27/2012