Conditions InDepth: Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)
by Ricker Polsdorfer, MD
The prostate gland is normally a walnut-sized organ located at the base of the urinary bladder, directly in front of the lower rectum. It surrounds the urethra and is just beneath the skin in front of the anus. The prostate is part of the male reproductive system. Women do not have a prostate gland.
The prostate is one of the few organs that continue to grow throughout life. The prostate sometimes grows large enough to cause problems. If it does, it will impede the flow of urine. Prostatism and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) are the dominant terms for this nonmalignant enlargement, but they are being replaced by the terms "lower urinary tract symptoms" (LUTS) and "benign prostatic obstruction" (BPO).
BPH is one of the most prevalent health problems among aging men, affecting 6 million men in the US over the age of 50 and an additional estimated 17 million men world-wide. By the age of 85, 90% of men have enlarged prostates, as assessed by autopsy criteria.
Growth of prostate tissue is stimulated by dihydrotestosterone, a male hormone. If the prostate tissue continues to enlarge, it may begin to squeeze your urethra and make it harder to pass urine. To compensate, your bladder muscle gets bigger and stronger, but the prostate will eventually continue to enlarge.
When the passing of urine is obstructed, some urine will remain in the bladder. This residual urine may lead to complications. The urine may become infected, and the infection can be difficult to cure until the bladder can empty completely. This is uncommon and usually occurs in elderly men. Resistant bacterial infections sometimes develop and may spread to cause serious illness. Retained urine can also back up into the kidneys and lead to chronic kidney disease or even kidney failure, which can be fatal.
American Urological Association (AUA) Practice Guidelines Committee. AUA guideline on management of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Available at:
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Accessed September 8, 2017.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed... . Updated September 1, 2017. Accessed September 8, 2017.
Pearson R, Williams PM. Common questions about the diagnosis and management of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Am Fam Physician. 2014;90(11):769-774.
Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrienne Carmack, MD
Last Updated: 9/17/2014
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