Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) – also called Benign Enlargement of the Prostate (BEP or BPE) – is a non-cancerous increase in size of the prostate. BPH is not known to cause or lead to cancer. This condition is also referred to “benign prostatic hypertrophy” and “benign prostatic obstruction.”
The prostate gland is about the size of a walnut and surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine and semen from the bladder out of the body. The gland produces seminal fluid which is secreted at the time of ejaculation. As men age, the prostate can continue to grow to the point of impeding the flow of urine through the urethra, or even blocking the flow, resulting in BPH.
BPH is not uncommon, and is the most common prostate problem for men over the age of 50, affecting over half the population. Studies have noted that up to ninety percent of men over the age of 80 are afflicted with BPH.
Some conditions and factors men have can make them more at risk for developing BPH include the following:
- Age 40 years and older
- Family history of benign prostatic hyperplasia
- Medical conditions such as obesity, heart and circulatory disease, and type 2 diabetes
- Lack of physical exercise
- Erectile dysfunction
Though scientists are not clear as to the exact cause of BPH, some evidence suggests that the enlarged prostate may be due to changes in testosterone, a male hormone, levels as they relate to estrogen, a female hormone, levels. With age, the amount of active testosterone in men’s blood decreases. While only small amounts of estrogen are made in men, the thought is that a with a decrease in testosterone levels, the small amounts of estrogen may be more prevalent in the prostrate than testosterone, which stimulates prostate cell growth.
Another theory as to the cause of BPH centers around another male hormone call dihytrotestosterone (DHT), which plays a role in prostrate growth and development. Although testosterone levels decrease with age, older men continue to produce DHT which can accumulate in high levels further promoting continued prostrate growth. Scientists have noted that men who do not produce DHT do not develop BPH.
Symptoms of an enlarged prostate and BPH includes:
- A weak or slow urinary stream
- A feeling of incomplete bladder emptying
- Difficulty starting urination
- Frequent urination
- Urgency to urinate
- Getting up frequently at night to urinate
- A urinary stream that starts and stops
- Straining to urinate
- Continued dribbling of urine
- Returning to urinate again minutes after finishing
- Urinary Incontinence – accidental loss of urine
- Pain after ejaculation or during urination
- Urine that has an unusual color or smell
There are some very serious risks that may occur from BPH ranging from urinary tract infections and blood in the urine to development of bladder stones and acute urinary retention (the inability to urinate). Acute urinary retention is a medical emergency that needs immediate attention. In rare cases, bladder and/or kidney damage may develop from complications with BPH.
There are a number of ways to treat BPH, and the treatment option can be dependent on the man’s age and the severity of the problem. Men 50 years old may have different treatment needs that a man thirty years older. Currently, medication, minimally-invasive in office procedures, and surgery is used to treat BPH. Sometimes, basic lifestyle changes such as liquid intake and regular exercise of the pelvic floor muscles can help alleviate symptoms.
There are a number of methods used to detect BPH. Family history, urinalysis, a prostate exam, blood tests, and ultra-sound are some of the most common methods.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms noted above and suspect you may have BPH, please contact Urological Associates today for an exam and evaluation.