The prostate is a gland that produces some of 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.
An enlarged prostate is often called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). 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 changes in the cells of the testicles may have a role in the growth of the gland, as well as testosterone levels. 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. However, this is not a standard treatment for an enlarged prostate.
Some facts about prostate enlargement:
Less than half of all men with BPH have symptoms of the disease. Symptoms may include:
Your health care provider will ask questions about your medical history. A digital rectal exam will also be done to feel the prostate gland. Other tests may 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 provider 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 provider 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, usually within 3 to 7 days after starting the medicine.
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.
Watch out for drugs that may make your symptoms worse:
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 which surgical procedure is recommended is most often based on the severity of your symptoms and the size and shape of your prostate gland. Most men who have prostate surgery have improvement in urine flow rates and symptoms.
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: It is a procedure to remove the inside part of the prostate gland. It is done through a surgical cut in your lower belly. This treatment is most often done on men who have very large prostate glands.
Other less-invasive procedures use heat or a laser to destroy prostate tissue. Another less-invasive procedure works by "tacking" the prostate open without removing or destroying tissues. None have been proven to be better than TURP. People 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 group.
Men who have had BPH for long time with slowly worsening symptoms may develop:
BPH may come back over time, even after having surgery.
Call your provider right away if you have:
Also call if:
Reviewed By: Sovrin M. Shah, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Urology, The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.