Enlarged Prostate Gland (BPH, Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia) Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

  • Medical Author: Glenn Gerber, MD
  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Find out when you should seek medical attention for prostate problems.

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia: PSA Test

The PSA test is a blood test. The PSA test can be used to suggest the presence of prostate cancer, to monitor its treatment, or assess its recurrence.

The PSA test can also be abnormal with benign enlargement (benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH), inflammation (prostatis), and infection of the prostate gland.

Enlarged prostate (BPH) definition and facts

  • The prostate gland produces a fluid that becomes part of the semen.
  • Benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH, involves enlargement of the prostate gland.
  • The prostate enlargement in benign prostatic hyperplasia is not malignant (not cancer).
  • BPH can impede the flow of urine.
  • Symptoms include frequent urge to urinate, getting up at night to urinate, difficulty urinating and dribbling of urine.
  • The treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia is usually reserved for patients with significant symptoms.
  • Medical and surgical approaches are available to treat BPH.

What is the prostate gland?

The prostate is a small organ about the size of a walnut. It lies below the bladder (where urine is stored) and surrounds the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder). The prostate makes a fluid that helps to nourish sperm as part of the semen (ejaculatory fluid).

Prostate problems are common in men 50 and older. Most can be treated successfully without harming sexual function.

What is benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)?

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is nonmalignant (noncancerous) enlargement of the prostate gland, a common occurrence in older men. It is also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia and abbreviated as BPH. It's also referred to as and enlarged prostate gland.

At what age do men develop the condition?

BPH generally begins in a man's 30s, evolves slowly, and most commonly only causes symptoms after 50.

How common is the condition? Are there any risk factors?

BPH is extremely common. Advanced age is a risk factor for an enlarged prostate. Half of all men over 50 develop symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia, but only 10% need medical or surgical intervention.

What happens in BPH? What are the signs and symptoms?

In benign prostatic hyperplasia, the prostate gland grows in size. It may compress the urethra which courses through the center of the prostate. This can impede the flow of urine from the bladder through the urethra to the outside. It can cause urine to back up in the bladder (retention) leading to the need to urinate frequently during the day and night.

Other common symptoms include a slow flow of urine, the need to urinate urgently and difficulty starting the urinary stream. More serious problems include urinary tract infections and complete blockage of the urethra, which may be a medical emergency and can lead injury to the kidneys.

Male Torso Picture - Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)
Male Torso Picture - Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)

Is BPH a type of cancer?

No! BPH is completely benign. It is not a precursor (a forerunner) to prostate cancer.

What procedures or tests diagnose this prostate problem?

A doctor or other health care professional usually can detect an enlarged prostate by rectal examination. The doctor also may examine the urethra, prostate, and bladder using a cytoscope, an instrument that is inserted through the penis or with ultrasound.

Which specialties of doctors treat the problem?

A urologist is a specialist in diseases of the urinary system, including diagnosing and treating problems of the prostate gland.

Are there natural or home remedies to treat BPH or enlarged prostate?

Watchful waiting often is chosen by men who are not bothered by symptoms of BPH. They have no treatment except to get regular checkups and wait to see whether or not the condition gets worse. Medical treatment of enlarged prostate is usually reserved for men with significant symptoms.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/18/2017
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia Quiz: Test Your BPH IQ

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