Prostate enlargement (otherwise known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH) is one of the most common health problems faced by men over age forty. In fact, about 50 percent of men will experience prostate problems in their sixties, a number that grows to about 80 percent of men by the time they reach their eighties. So if you are experiencing symptoms of an enlarged prostate, you're not alone.

What is the prostate and where is it?
The prostate is a gland located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It wraps around a tube called the urethra, which carries urine and semen, the white fluid that contains sperm.

How an enlarged prostate affects you
Prostate enlargement usually starts at the innermost part of the prostate, the part closest to the urethra. As the prostate grows, it gradually begins to squeeze the urethra, like a clamp on a garden hose. Urination becomes more difficult, and the bladder may not be able to empty completely, keeping small amounts of urine behind. This combination of blocked urethra and irritated bladder, if left untreated, can lead to more serious problems including infection and damage to the kidneys and bladder.

Basic Facts

  • Enlarged prostate, or benign prostatic hyperplasia, is a condition which eventually affects 80 percent of all men.
  • The main problem from an enlarged prostate is difficulty in urination, which may lead to blockage and infection and have a negative impact on the person's quality of life.
  • There are many treatment options for an enlarged prostate, including new minimally invasive therapies that can be an alternative to traditional surgery.
  • It rarely occurs in men before age 40, and is most common in men after age 60.
  • Enlarged prostate is not prostate cancer, and is not life-threatening in and of itself.
  • Early diagnosis is the key to successful treatment. All men over the age of 50 should have a regular prostate exam. Men of African-American descent, those with a family history of prostate cancer, or those with no knowledge of family history (adopted), should begin regular screenings at age 40.
Most symptoms of an enlarged prostate involve urination, and they can range from mild to bothersome to severe, when a man isn't able to urinate at all. It's important to check with your doctor as soon as you notice anything unusual with regards to urination. The symptoms of an enlarged prostate may vary, but "typical" symptoms include:

  • Weak urine stream
  • Nighttime urination
  • Urgent urination
  • Starting and stopping of urination
  • Interference with sexual activity
  • Hesitancy of stream
  • Frequent urination
  • Sensation of incomplete bladder emptying
  • Painful or burning urination
Often, the severity of symptoms is related to how constricted the urethra is by the prostate. Without treatment, these symptoms may continue to worsen as the condition progresses.

You don't have to endure the symptoms of BPH. Prostate enlargement is treatable. Your options range from medication, office-based or outpatient procedures to traditional surgery. Each treatment has advantages and disadvantages, and all medical procedure have potential risks and complications. You should talk to your doctor about all of your options.

Medication is usually the first treatment for BPH. There are several medicines that relieve the symptoms in most men, at least initially. For some, medication loses its effectiveness over time or causes undesirable side effects such as dizziness, low blood pressure or impotence. Because BPH symptoms return when the medication is stopped, even those who find continued relief without side effects are faced with the lifelong expense and inconvenience of a daily medication regimen; thus, many seek longer-lasting solutions.


The most traditional long term treatment is surgery, which cuts away the enlarged prostate tissue. Transurethral Resection of the Prostate (TURP) is the most common BPH surgery. It involves inserting an instrument in the urethra and removing excess prostate tissue one piece at a time. Another surgical option, open prostatectomy, requires an abdominal incision and is therefore typically reserved for severely enlarged prostates.

These traditional surgeries generally require a one to three-day hospital stay. Both surgeries can provide long-term relief, but they can also produce serious long-term side effects such as incontinence, difficulty attaining erections and ejaculation problems.

Advanced Technology

In an effort to deliver long-term relief with fewer risks and side effects than traditional surgery, medical scientists have developed and refined other BPH treatments in recent decades. These treatments use advanced technology, such as lasers, microwaves, or radio frequency, to reduce the size of the prostate without actually cutting it. These less invasive outpatient procedures are frequently recommended as alternatives to medication or when medication fails. They usually cannot be performed if BPH has progressed to a severe stage and are not generally recommended for patients with poor bladder function.

Notice: Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.