BPH, the acronym for Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (or sometimes, hypertrophy), is an enlarged prostate gland, and is not typically a serious problem, nor on its own a life-threatening condition. And, to clear up a common misconception, BPH is not cancer, nor does it cause prostate cancer. However, BPH can be a nuisance, and in a small number of cases can cause the bladder to be blocked. The exact cause of this malady is not known, and it appears to be a normal part of the aging process, occurring in men over 40 years of age.
The prostate gland is a part of the male reproductive system which secretes fluid that nourishes and protects sperm. During ejaculation, the gland squeezes this fluid into the urethra which is then expelled with sperm as semen. Interestingly, most men’s prostate continues to grow throughout their lives. Because of this, most men experience BPH as they age.
How BPH can be a nuisance is due in part to the way the prostate gland is designed and its location in relation to other parts of the bladder and reproductive systems. For whatever reason, the evolution of these male systems has resulted in the prostate gland surrounding the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body). When the prostate gland swells, it can put pressure on the urethra, squeeze it, and result in problems with urination due to partial blockage of the tube.
Some of the symptoms of BPH include:
- Difficulty starting urination or stopping it (dribbling)
- he feeling you need to urinate when you don’t (may wake you up)
- A weak urine stream
- The sense your bladder is not empty after urination
For some men, BPH causes few, if any, symptoms. For others, the symptoms can adversely affect their quality of life. Though there is no cure, a urologist can offer treatment options to alleviate the problematic symptoms. In those rare cases that BPH blocks urination, surgery may be required.