Is Benign Enlargement of the Prostate?
Benign enlargement of the prostate is a common condition in which
your prostate gland swells beyond normal size. It is also known as benign
prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH. If you have this disorder, keep in mind that it’s
not a cancer. The condition does, however, still require treatment if it is
accompanied by symptoms.
The prostate gland is only found in men and is normally about the
size of a walnut. It sits immediately underneath the bladder and just above the
penis. A tube called the urethra, which carries urine from your bladder, passes
through the center of the prostate gland.
An enlarged prostate can compress the urethra, which causes
narrowing or blockage of the tube and prevents your urine from flowing
Fortunately, your prostate gland isn’t essential to sustain life.
It’s possible to surgically remove the prostate if the problems interfere too
much with your quality of life.
Causes Benign Enlargement of the Prostate?
Once you reach age 45, you’re more likely to develop an enlarged
prostate. Your risk increases as you age. Around one-third of men older than 50
have an enlarged prostate. By age 85, this increases to a whopping 90 percent.
Some research suggests that prostate enlargement could result
from hormonal changes occurring in men as they age.
If you have a close relative with benign prostate enlargement,
you’re more likely to develop the condition yourself.
Are the Symptoms of Benign Enlargement of the Prostate?
If you have an enlarged prostate, you may experience some of the
following symptoms, which tend to worsen as time goes on:
- a need to urinate more often than normal
- an increased need to urinate during the night
- finding it difficult to start urinating
- having a flow of urine that is weak, or stops
and starts (dribbling)
- feeling as if you have to strain to produce
- feeling as if your bladder hasn’t emptied
properly after urinating
- urine continuing to drip out after you have
You may also experience complications from an enlarged prostate,
such as a urinary tract infection. You could also develop bladder or kidney
However, not everyone experiences symptoms. You may even
experience symptoms that don’t appear to relate to the prostate gland.
Is Benign Enlargement of the Prostate Diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms. They may
perform a rectal examination to check the size and shape of your prostate
You also may undergo urine and blood tests. These tests will
check for infections and measure the prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels in
your blood. The PSA number goes up when the prostate enlarges.
High levels of PSA can sometimes indicate prostate cancer, and
your doctor may want to check for this. If there’s any doubt at all, your
doctor can analyze a sample of cells from your prostate. You may also need an
Another test is a cystoscopy, where your doctor inserts a slender
instrument with a camera into the urethra through the end of the penis. Your
doctor can use this method to inspect your prostate gland from within the body.
You might also need to urinate into a device that measures your
Are the Treatment Options for Benign Enlargement of the Prostate?
If your symptoms are mild, you may not need medical treatment.
You might be able to manage your condition with lifestyle changes, such as
restricting fluid intake at night and reducing alcohol and caffeine
consumption. Your doctor will monitor your prostate at regular intervals.
Drugs are the most frequently used treatment when your symptoms
are moderate. You may receive alpha-blockers to relax the muscles in your
prostate. Your doctor might also prescribe drugs known as 5-alpha-reductase
inhibitors, which alter your hormone balance, and encourage the prostate to
reduce in size. Patients often take both types of medication. If taken, you
need to have your blood pressure monitored, as these drugs can affect BP
If your prostate doesn’t respond to drug treatment, or if it’s
quite large, surgery may be necessary to remove the enlarged portion of the
gland. The most common operation is known as transurethral resection of the
prostate (TURP). As with the cystoscopy, a long, thin instrument with a camera enters
the urethra to reach your prostate. Then the instrument removes the enlarged
tissues using an electrical loop. The loop not only cuts, but also cauterizes
the blood vessels to control bleeding.
Another type of surgery is transurethral incision of the prostate
(TUIP). This procedure widens the urethra to allow for stronger urine flow. This
is an “open” surgery, meaning it requires an external incision to reach the
prostate. Doctors use this procedure only under more severe circumstances.
Non-surgical techniques use microwaves, radio waves, or lasers to
remove the enlarged prostate tissue. These may cause fewer side effects, but
aren’t as proven as conventional methods for long-term effectiveness.
Is the Long-Term Outlook?
With common treatment — medication, lifestyle changes, or surgery
— most men find their condition greatly improves. Some men worry that prostate
surgery will affect their sexual function. However, if you were capable of
achieving an erection before your prostate surgery, you should be able to
resume your normal sex life after fully recovering from the procedure.