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Patient education: Benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate) (The Basics)

Patient education: Benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate) (The Basics)

What is benign prostatic hyperplasia? — "Benign prostatic hyperplasia" is the medical term for an enlarged prostate. The prostate is a gland that surrounds the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder out through the penis) (figure 1). This gland often gets bigger as a person gets older.

Benign prostatic hyperplasia, also called "BPH," is a common problem. It has nothing to do with prostate cancer. In fact, the word "benign" means "not cancer."

What are the symptoms of BPH? — Many people with BPH have no symptoms at all. When symptoms do occur, they can include:

Needing to urinate often, especially at night

Having trouble starting to urinate (this means that you might have to wait or strain before urine will come out)

Having a weak urine stream

Leaking or dribbling urine

Feeling as though your bladder is not empty even after you urinate

In rare cases, BPH can make it so you cannot urinate at all. This is a serious problem. If you cannot urinate at all, call your doctor right away.

Is there a test for BPH? — Yes. Your doctor can check for BPH by doing a rectal exam. That means that they will put a finger into your anus to check how big your prostate is and what it feels like (figure 2). Your doctor might also do urine or blood tests to see if your symptoms might be caused by another problem, such as a bladder infection.

If you have symptoms like the ones listed above, see your doctor or nurse. They can figure out if BPH is really what's causing them. Those symptoms can also be caused by other problems, so it's important to have them checked out.

Is there anything I can do on my own to feel better? — Yes. You might be able to improve your BPH symptoms if you:

Drink less fluids, especially just before bed or going out.

Drink less alcohol and caffeine. These drinks can make you urinate more often.

Avoid cold and allergy medicines that contain antihistamines or decongestants. These medicines can make the symptoms of BPH worse.

Do "double voiding." That means that after you empty your bladder, you wait a moment, relax, and try to urinate again. It might also help to try to urinate at certain times, even if you don't feel that you need to.

Urinate when you first feel the urge.

How is BPH treated? — If you do have BPH, your doctor can talk to you about treatment options. But you don't have to get treated if your symptoms do not bother you. Unless you lose the ability to urinate completely, leaving BPH untreated will not hurt you.

Treatments options include:

Watchful waiting – This means that you wait to see if your symptoms change, but you don't have treatment right away. If you choose watchful waiting, you can decide to try treatment later if your symptoms get worse or if your symptoms start to bother you more.

Medicines – There are 2 types of medicine commonly used to treat BPH. One type relaxes the muscles that surround the urethra. The other type keeps the prostate from growing more or even helps shrink the prostate. In some cases, doctors suggest taking both types of medicine at the same time. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor might also suggest other medicines.

Surgery – There are several ways to treat BPH with surgery. They can involve removing some of the prostate, shrinking the prostate, or making the urethra wider so that more urine can flow through. For most of these procedures, a doctor inserts special tools into the urethra.

How do I choose which treatment to have? — The right treatment for you will depend on:

How much your symptoms bother you

How you feel about the different treatment options

If your symptoms don't bother you very much, you might not need any treatment. But if your symptoms do bother you, you probably should get treated.

Doctors often suggest trying medicines first to see if they help. If medicines don't do enough, surgery is also an option. As you think about your choices, remember that treatments can have a downside. For example, medicines can cause side effects. And surgery has some general risks, and can also sometimes cause sexual problems and other side effects.

When you're thinking about which treatment to have, ask your doctor or nurse these questions:

How likely is it that this treatment will improve my symptoms?

What are the risks or side effects of this treatment?

What happens if I don't have this treatment?

When do I need to call the doctor? — Call for advice if:

You have pain in your back, shoulder, or belly.

You have a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, chills, burning, or pain when you urinate.

You are not able to urinate or have more problems urinating.

More on this topic

Patient education: Urinary incontinence in males (The Basics)

Patient education: Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) (Beyond the Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jan 02, 2023.
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