An enlarged prostate—also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)—is a natural sign of aging that affects half of all men over the age of 40. The good news is this condition does not increase your risk of developing prostate cancer. It can, however, disrupt your daily life by causing annoying and sometimes painful urination problems.
“Fortunately, for most patients, this condition is highly treatable and manageable with medical treatment,” says Elisabeth Mulroy, MD, a urologist in the Division of Urology at University of Utah Health. “That’s why it’s good to recognize the symptoms and get help early on.”
What’s Happening Down There?
BPH symptoms are caused by the prostate (a gland just beneath the bladder), compressing the urethra (the tube that lets urine leave the bladder and the body). As men age, the walnut-sized prostate grows, which can result in urinary problems.
Common symptoms of BPH include:
- Bladder obstruction, such as a slow stream of urine
- Starting and stopping while urinating
- Inability to empty your bladder completely
- Bladder irritation or discomfort
- Feeling an urgency to urinate
- Sleepless nights caused by bathroom breaks
- Inability to control your bladder
When symptoms arise, Mulroy encourages men to schedule a medical exam to explore underlying causes and treatment options. It’s also important to discuss family history because genetics can be a risk factor for BPH.
“If symptoms go untreated, it can result in decreased quality of life and urinary tract infections,” Mulroy says. “In more severe cases, it may result in urinary retention with the need for catheterization or possible kidney dysfunction.”
What Are My Treatment Options?
Your doctor may prescribe one or more types of medications, depending on your symptoms and the size of your prostate gland.
Common treatment options include:
- Alpha Blockers: This medication relaxes the prostate and bladder opening to allow better urine flow. Common medications include alfuzosin (Uroxatral) and tamsulosin (Flomax).
- PDE5 Inhibitors: This medication relaxes the muscles in your bladder and prostate to reduce some of the symptoms of BPH. A common medication is tadalafil (Cialis).
- 5-Alpha Reductase Inhibitors: This medication blocks hormones that can lead to prostrate growth. It can take up to six months to see results. Common medications are dutasteride and finasteride (Proscar).
- Surgery: This option is usually considered when medications do not improve the symptoms or lose effectiveness. Surgery can also be considered when the patient wants to stop taking medications.
Can Lifestyle Changes Help?
As the old saying goes: An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Healthy living can significantly mitigate the effects of aging, including BPH. Here are some lifestyle changes that can help alleviate symptoms:
- Eating whole foods and exercising regularly
- Limiting beverage intake after dinnertime
- Reducing alcohol and caffeine consumption
- Avoiding certain medications that could trigger urinary problems
“It’s so important to take care of ourselves as we age,” Mulroy says. “A healthy lifestyle and annual health screenings can significantly improve health outcomes for men with BPH.”