If you haven’t heard of benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH, chances are you will. Formerly known as prostatism, an estimated 50% of men have evidence of BPH by age 50 and 75% have it by age 80. BPH is a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland that can occur as men get older. It can cause bothersome urinary symptoms such as having to urinate often, urgency, difficulty starting, incomplete bladder emptying, getting up at night, and sometimes incontinence.

When the prostate enlarges, it can begin to block your inflow. When your inflow out of the bladder is blocked you can experience bladder and kidney problems, infections, and other serious conditions. If your urinary symptoms aren’t diminishing your quality of your life and don’t pose a health threat, you may not need treatment, but you should still be checked out by a doctor to determine whether your urinary troubles are caused by an enlarged prostate or something more serious.

The American Urological Association (AUA) BPH Symptom Score Index is a series of questions designed to identify if BPH is present and if so, what the severity is. If BPH is suspected, there are a number of tests your doctor can do to confirm the presence of BPH. Some of the common tests include digital rectal examination (DRE); transrectal ultrasound, which measures the size of the prostate; urine flow study, in order to determine the speed and stream of urine flow; and cystoscopy, which involves the insertion of an instrument into the urethra to examine both the prostate and bladder.

There are several effective treatments for BPH ranging from medications, office procedures, and surgery, both invasive and non-invasive. Your doctor and you will decide what’s best for you based on your particular symptoms, the size of your prostate, any other health problems you may have, and your preferences.

There are several medications that are used to treat BPH. These include alpha blockers, which relax the muscle of the prostate to improve urine flow, although these drugs do not help restore the size of the prostate to normal; 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors, which can take 6-12 months to produce results, and must be used indefinitely to prevent recurring symptoms; and 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors, which can improve the size of the prostate as well as increase urine flow. A combination of these drugs can also be used, but they may lead to an increase of side effects such as impotence and decreased libido.

Medication does not have to be your only solution to a health problem such as BPH. Phytotherapies are popular self-treatment therapies that involve the use of herbal therapies to help with BPH. The effectiveness of this treatment has not been well studied and is generally thought to be less effective than medication.

Risk factors for BPH include increased age and family history, but also include obesity, depression, and race (with African American men having an increased risk). While BPH is not cancer and cannot lead to cancer, it is a medical condition that should be evaluated by your doctor.

If you have any questions about BPH and urinary problems in general, we have answers. Click on enlarged prostate under the patient education section of our website. Also, feel free to get in touch to find out more.