Since September is National Prostate Health Awareness Month, it’s appropriate to discuss a common issue: benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH is an enlargement of the prostate and a common condition in men over age 40.
Some patients mistakenly believe than an enlarged prostate indicates prostate cancer, but hyperplasia simply means an overgrowth of cells. Although BPH can cause uncomfortable symptoms, it usually doesn’t pose a dangerous health threat.
In fact, BPH may not exhibit any symptoms but be detected during a routine exam. Conversely, patients may notice symptoms such as:
A more urgent and frequent need to urinate
Awakening at night to urinate
Straining during urination
Difficulty starting urination and/or a start-and-stop flow
Decreased volume and force of urine stream
Feeling the need to continue urinating, despite the flow having stopped
BPH has no known cause, although heredity may be a factor. Current research is looking into changes in hormone levels which occur with age.
Because tolerance for discomfort differs with each individual, patients have numerous options to discuss with their physicians. In many cases, no treatment at all is the best alternative, since mild symptoms can clear up or remain stable without intervention.
Studies show that about 40% of men with mild symptoms improve without treatment, 45% continue with no change, and only 15% worsen. Regular checkups can keep tabs on the individual situation.
BPH requires treatment if the patient finds the symptoms excessively bothersome or debilitating. In some cases, urinary flow can be blocked which is a medical emergency requiring immediate attention.
There are no preventive measures for BPH, although some lifestyle changes can help manage mild cases. Avoiding certain medications like tranquilizers, decongestants and antihistamines can help. Reducing fluid intake in the evenings will decrease the possibility of having to urinate during the night, as well as limiting caffeinated drinks, which are diuretics.
Individuals experiencing urinary difficulties should consult with a physician. Whether or not BPH is diagnosed, a doctor can provide recommendations and help determine a course of action to address the condition.