What is benign prostatic hyperplasia - BPH?
Benign prostatic hyperplasia––also called BPH––is a condition in men in which the prostate gland is enlarged and not cancerous. Benign prostatic hyperplasia is also called benign prostatic hypertrophy or benign prostatic obstruction.
The prostate goes through two main growth periods as a man ages. The first occurs early in puberty, when the prostate doubles in size. The second phase of growth begins around age 25 and continues during most of a man’s life. Benign prostatic hyperplasia often occurs with the second growth phase.
As the prostate enlarges, the gland presses against and pinches the urethra. The bladder wall becomes thicker. Eventually, the bladder may weaken and lose the ability to empty completely, leaving some urine in the bladder. The narrowing of the urethra and urinary retention––the inability to empty the bladder completely––cause many of the problems associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia.
What causes BPH?
The cause of benign prostatic hyperplasia is not well understood; however, it occurs mainly in older men. Benign prostatic hyperplasia does not develop in men whose testicles were removed before puberty. For this reason, some researchers believe factors related to aging and the testicles may cause benign prostatic hyperplasia.
Another theory focuses on dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a male hormone that plays a role in prostate development and growth. Some research has indicated that even with a drop in blood testosterone levels, older men continue to produce and accumulate high levels of DHT in the prostate. This accumulation of DHT may encourage prostate cells to continue to grow. Scientists have noted that men who do not produce DHT do not develop benign prostatic hyperplasia.
What are the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia?
Lower urinary tract symptoms suggestive of benign prostatic hyperplasia may include:
- urinary frequency—urination eight or more times a day
- urinary urgency—the inability to delay urination
- trouble starting a urine stream
- a weak or an interrupted urine stream
- dribbling at the end of urination
- nocturia—frequent urination during periods of sleep
- urinary retention
- urinary incontinence—the accidental loss of urine
- pain after ejaculation or during urination
- urine that has an unusual color or smell
Symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia most often come from:
- blocked urethra
- bladder that is overworked from trying to pass urine through the blockage
Some men with greatly enlarged prostates have little blockage and few symptoms, while other men who have minimally enlarged prostates have greater blockage and more symptoms. Less than half of all men with benign prostatic hyperplasia have lower urinary tract symptoms.
What are the complications of benign prostatic hyperplasia?
The complications of benign prostatic hyperplasia may include:
- acute urinary retention
- chronic, or long lasting, urinary retention
- blood in the urine
- urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- bladder damage
- kidney damage
- bladder stones
Most men with benign prostatic hyperplasia do not develop these complications. However, kidney damage in particular can be a serious health threat when it occurs.
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