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Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland, makes urination difficult and uncomfortable. Your prostate gland is located underneath your bladder and surrounds your urethra, which empties urine from the bladder. As the prostate gland expands, it squeezes the urethra or causes the muscles around the urethra to contract, making it difficult to urinate.
Prostate enlargement is very common as men age -- symptoms usually develop around age 50 and by age 60, most men have some degree of BPH. At age 85, men have a 90% chance of having urination problems caused by BPH. It’s important to note that BPH is not cancer, and it does not put you at increased risk for developing prostate cancer.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms may include:
Nobody knows the basic cause of BPH. Research shows that testosterone, the male hormone, or dihydrotestosterone, a chemical produced when testosterone breaks down in a man's body, may cause the prostate to keep growing. Another theory is that changes in the ratio of testosterone and estrogen (female hormone) as men age cause the prostate to grow.
Some over the counter medications for colds or allergies can drastically worsen BPH.
Your health care provider may check the size of your prostate gland directly by putting a gloved finger in your rectum and feeling the back wall of the prostate. Your health care provider will also order blood tests and possibly a urine sample. Other tests may include:
In addition, you may be asked to complete a self screening form to evaluate the severity of your symptoms and the impact on your daily life. Your doctor can use this to monitor your condition over time.
Treatment will depend on your age, overall health, and the severity of your symptoms. BPH symptoms may come and go, so it’s important to receive regular check-ups to monitor the progression of symptoms. There are many ways to successfully treat BPH, including some simple lifestyle changes and several herbal remedies and medications. If no other therapies work and the symptoms are severe enough, there are also several types of surgery to correct the condition.
Many men with BPH have only minor symptoms. Some simple lifestyle changes may be all you need to feel better:
Alpha blockers -- Also known as alpha-adrenergic antagonists, these medicines cause the muscles around your bladder to relax, making it easier to urinate. These drugs were originally used to treat high blood pressure. They seem to work best in men with moderately enlarged prostates. Common side effects include decreased ejaculation and low blood pressure. These drugs should not be taken with medications for erectile dysfunction, such as Viagra or Cialis. Alpha blockers include:
Enzyme inhibitors -- Also known as 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors, these medicines shrink the prostate gland by reducing the amount of testosterone the body converts into dihydrotestosterone, a hormone the prostate needs to grow. These drugs take longer to work than alpha blockers. They also lower PSA levels (a high level of PSA can indicate prostate cancer), making it harder to screen for prostate cancer. Enzyme inhibitors include:
Your doctor may suggest combination therapy -- taking an alpha blocker and an enzyme inhibitor at the same time.
Surgery and Other Procedures
Prostate surgery may be recommended if you have:
Which procedure is best for you usually depends on the severity of your symptoms and the size and shape of your prostate gland.
Minimally invasive techniques
These techniques may be better at relieving symptoms than medications, but are often not as effective as surgery. However, they are less likely to cause side effects than surgery.
Transurethtral microwave therapy -- uses heat from microwaves to shrink the prostate. This procedure works best for men with moderate symptoms and enlargement of the prostate.
Transurethral needle ablation -- uses radio waves to get rid of the part of the prostate that is blocking urine flow. It works best for men with mild to moderate enlargement of the prostate.
Interstitial laser therapy -- uses a laser to destroy excess tissue and shrink the prostate. It works best for men who have mild to moderate enlargement of the prostate and don’t experience urinary retention.
Surgery is the most effective way to reduce your symptoms, but potential side effects include a small risk of erectile dysfunction or urinary incontinence.
Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) -- is the most common surgical treatment for BPH. TURP is performed by inserting a scope through the penis. The primary advantage of this procedure is that it does not involve an incision, reducing the risk of infection. One potential side effect is retrograde ejaculation, where semen goes into the bladder instead of out the urethra.
Transurethral incision of the prostate (TUIP) -- similar to TURP, but is usually performed in men who have a relatively small prostate. Like the TURP, a scope is inserted through the penis until the prostate is reached. Then, rather than removing prostate tissue, a small incision is made in the tissue to let the urethra expand and make urination easier. This procedure is usually performed on an outpatient basis and does not require a hospital stay.
Laser surgery -- Two types of laser surgery are used to destroy excess prostate tissue. Photosensitive vaporization of the prostate (PVP) is used for men with mild to moderate prostate enlargement, while holmium laser enucleation of the prostate (HoLEP) is usually used for men with severely enlarged prostates. Side effects can include retrograde ejaculation.
Open prostatectomy -- An open prostatectomy is usually performed using general or spinal anesthesia. An incision is made through the abdomen or perineal area (through the pelvic floor, including the region between the scrotum and the anus). This is a lengthy procedure, and usually requires a hospital stay of 5 - 10 days.
Most men who have prostate surgery see improvement in urine flow rates and symptoms. Possible complications include impotence, urinary incontinence, retrograde ejaculation, infertility, and urethral stricture (narrowing).
Nutrition and Dietary Supplements
Beta-sitosterol (60 - 130 mg per day) -- Beta-sitosterol is a cholesterol-like compound found in plants. It has been studied for BPH and found to significantly improve urinary flow and decrease the amount of urine left in the bladder. It does not shrink the prostate, however. Beta-sitosterol is also used to lower cholesterol, making it a good option for men whose cholesterol levels are high. Plants that are high in beta-sitosterol, such as pumpkin seeds (Cucurbita pepo), are sometimes suggested for BPH. Talk to your doctor before adding any supplements to your BPH treatment regimen.
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs only under the supervision of a health care provider.
Prognosis and Complications
While the majority of men get better with treatment of BPH, men who have had long standing BPH may develop:
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Review Date: 12/15/2011
Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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