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BPH: When Your Prostate Gland Is Enlarged
Learn about a common condition that affects many men as they age.

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BPH: When Your Prostate Gland Is Enlarged

Benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH, is more commonly known as an enlarged prostate gland. The likelihood of developing BPH increases with age. It occurs to some degree in almost all men as they age.

The prostate is a gland that is part of a man's reproductive system. It is a walnut-sized gland that sits below the bladder. Consisting of two lobes, the prostate wraps around the urethra. The urethra is the tube that allows urine to flow out of the body.

An enlarged prostate can press on and block urine flow through the urethra. Symptoms may include:

  • Needing to use the bathroom frequently, especially at night
  • Feeling an urgency to urinate
  • Having trouble starting the urination process
  • Not being able to put off urinating once the urge to urinate begins
  • Pushing or straining to urinate
  • Dribbling
  • Decreasing size and strength of the urine stream
  • Feeling like the bladder is not empty even though urination has stopped

In extreme cases, a man may not be able to urinate at all. If this occurs, a man should seek emergency attention immediately.

Possible risk factors
While for most men the prostate gets larger with age, specific risk factors for developing BPH have not been identified. In some studies, associations have been found with:

  • Obesity
  • Little physical activity
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • A family history of enlarged prostate

BPH and prostate cancer
There is no evidence that BPH leads to cancer. However, both prostate cancer and BPH have similar symptoms. That's why it's important to see your doctor to have your symptoms thoroughly checked.

Diagnosing BPH
Always let your doctor know if you have problems urinating at any age. A simple clinical exam, blood test and/or urine test may be conducted to help determine the cause of your symptoms and whether you have an enlarged prostate.

During a rectal exam, your health care provider feels the size and shape of your prostate gland. The exam may help determine if you have signs of an enlarged prostate.

You may have to give a urine sample to see if you have a bladder infection.

A blood test may also be drawn to check your prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level. The prostate makes PSA, which is a protein. If you have BPH, your PSA level may be elevated. PSA can also be elevated for other reasons as well, including certain infections and prostate cancer.

You may undergo a bladder test. This test, called a urodynamic study, can show how well the bladder and urethra are working.

If you are diagnosed with BPH, it's important to discuss your treatment options with your doctor to determine which one is best for you.

By Susan G. Warner, Contributing Writer
Created on 03/10/2004
Updated on 08/25/2013
  • UpToDate. Clinical manifestations and diagnostic evaluation of benign prostatic hyperplasia.
  • American Urological Association. Management of benign prostatic hyperplasia.
  • National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Prostate enlargement: Benign prostatic hyperplasia.
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