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The prostate is a gland that produces the fluid that carries sperm during ejaculation. The prostate gland surrounds the urethra, the tube through which urine passes out of the body.
An enlarged prostate means the gland has grown bigger. Prostate enlargement happens to almost all men as they get older. As the gland grows, it can press on the urethra and cause urination and bladder problems.
An enlarged prostate is often called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). It is not cancer, and it does not raise your risk for prostate cancer.
BPH; Benign prostatic hyperplasia (hypertrophy); Prostate - enlarged
The actual cause of prostate enlargement is unknown. Factors linked to aging and changes in the cells of the testicles may have a role in the growth of the gland. Men who have had their testicles removed at a young age (for example, as a result of testicular cancer) do not develop BPH.
Also, if the testicles are removed after a man develops BPH the prostate begins to shrink in size.
Some facts about prostate enlargement:
Less than half of all men with BPH have symptoms of the disease. Symptoms may include:
Your doctor will ask you questions about your medical history and do a digital rectal exam to feel the prostate gland. Other tests you may have include:
You may be asked to fill out a form to rate how bad your symptoms are and how much they affect your daily life. Your doctor can use this score to judge if your condition is getting worse over time.
The treatment you choose will be based on how bad your symptoms are and how much they bother you. Your doctor will also take into account other medical problems you may have.
Treatment options include "watchful waiting," lifestyle changes, medicines, or surgery.
If you are over 60, you are more likely to have symptoms. But many men with an enlarged prostate have only minor symptoms. Self-care steps are often enough to make you feel better.
If you have BPH, you should have a yearly exam to monitor your symptoms and see if you need changes in treatment.
For mild symptoms:
Alpha 1-blockers are a class of drugs that are also used to treat high blood pressure. These medicines relax the muscles of the bladder neck and prostate. This allows easier urination. Most people who take alpha 1-blockers notice improvement in their symptoms. .
Finasteride and dutasteride lower levels of hormones produced by the prostate. These drugs also reduce the size of the gland, increase urine flow rate, and decrease symptoms of BPH. You may need to take these medicines for 3 to 6 months before you notice symptoms getting better. Possible side effects include decreased sex drive and impotence.
Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat chronic prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate), which may occur with BPH. BPH symptoms improve in some men after a course of antibiotics.
Many herbs have been tried for treating an enlarged prostate. Many men use saw palmetto to ease symptoms. Some studies have shown that it may help with symptoms, but results are mixed and more research is needed. If you use saw palmetto and think it works, ask your doctor if you should still take it.
Prostate surgery may be recommended if you have:
The choice of a specific surgical procedure is usually based on the severity of your symptoms and the size and shape of your prostate gland.
Transurethral resection of the prostate(TURP): This is the most common and most proven surgical treatment for BPH. TURP is performed by inserting a scope through the penis and removing the prostate piece by piece.
Simple prostatectomy: An open prostatectomy is usually performed using general or spinal anesthesia. An incision is made through the abdomen or perineum (the area behind the scrotum). Only the inner part of the prostate gland is removed. The outer portion is left behind. This is a long procedure. Most people need to stay in the hospital for 5 to 10 days. This treatment is most often done on men who have very large prostate glands.
Most men who have prostate surgery have improvement in urine flow rates and symptoms.
Other, less-invasive procedures use heat to destroy prostate tissue. None have been proven to be better than TURP. Patients who receive these procedures are more likely to need surgery again after 5 or 10 years. However, these procedures may be a choice for:
Some men may find it helpful to take part in a BPH support groups.
Men who have had BPH for long time with slowly worsening symptom may develop:
BPH may come back over time even after having surgery.
Call your doctor right away if you have:
Also call your doctor if:
Roehrborn CG. Male lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Med Clin North Am. 2011 Jan;95(1):87-100.
McNicholas TA, Kirby RS, Lepor H. Evaluation and nonsurgical management of benign prostatic hyperplasia. In: Wein AJ, ed. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 91.
Reviewed By: Scott Miller, MD, Urologist in private practice in Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.