The prostate is a male reproductive gland that produces the fluid that carries sperm during ejaculation. It 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) or benign prostatic hypertrophy. It is not cancer, and it does not raise your risk for prostate cancer.
The actual cause of prostate enlargement is unknown. Factors linked to aging and the testicles themselves may play 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.
Similarly, if the testicles are removed after a man develops BPH, the prostate begins to shrink in size.
Some facts about prostate enlargement:
The likelihood of developing an enlarged prostate increases with age.
BPH is so common that it has been said all men will have an enlarged prostate if they live long enough.
A small amount of prostate enlargement is present in many men over age 40 and more than 90% of men over age 80.
No risk factors have been identified other than having normally functioning testicles.
Less than half of all men with BPH have symptoms of the disease, which include:
Dribbling at the end of urinating
Inability to urinate (urinary retention)
Incomplete emptying of your bladder
Needing to urinate two or more times per night
Pain with urination or bloody urine (these may indicate infection)
Slowed or delayed start of the urinary stream
Straining to urinate
Strong and sudden urge to urinate
Weak urine stream
The choice of a treatment is based on the severity of your symptoms, the extent to which they affect your daily life, and the presence of any other medical conditions. Treatment options include "watchful waiting," lifestyle changes, medication, 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 the progression of your symptoms and determine if any changes in treatment are necessary.
For mild symptoms:
Urinate when you first get the urge. Also, go to the bathroom when you have the chance, even if you don't feel a need to urinate.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine, especially after dinner.
Don't drink a lot of fluid all at once. Spread out fluids throughout the day. Avoid drinking fluids within 2 hours of bedtime.
Try NOT to take over-the-counter cold and sinus medications that contain decongestants or antihistamines. These medications can increase BPH symptoms.
Keep warm and exercise regularly. Cold weather and lack of physical activity may worsen symptoms.
Learn and perform Kegel exercises (pelvic strengthening exercises).
Reduce stress. Nervousness and tension can lead to more frequent urination.
Alpha 1-blockers (doxazosin, prazosin, tamsulosin, terazosin, and alfuzosin) are a class of medications also used to treat high blood pressure. These medications relax the muscles of the bladder neck and prostate. This allows easier urination. Most people treated with alpha 1-blocker medication find that it helps their symptoms.
Finasteride and dutasteride lower levels of hormones produced by the prostate, reduce the size of the prostate gland, increase urine flow rate, and decrease symptoms of BPH. It may take 3 to 6 months before you notice much improvement in your symptoms. Potential side effects related to the use of finasteride and dutasteride include decreased sex drive and impotence.
Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat chronic prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate), which may accompany BPH. Some men note relief of their BPH symptoms after a course of antibiotics.
Many herbs have been tried for treating an enlarged prostate. Saw palmetto has been used by millions of men to ease BPH symptoms and is often recommended as an alternative to medication.
Some studies have shown that it helps with symptoms, but there is evidence that this popular herb is no better than a dummy pill in relieving the signs and symptoms of BPH. Further studies are 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:
Recurrent blood in the urine
Inability to fully empty the bladder (urinary retention)
Recurrent urinary tract infections
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.