Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a non-cancerous prostate gland enlargement, mostly affecting men aged 50 or over. BPH is such a common condition that doctors believe all men will have an enlarged prostate if they live long enough.
Typical signs include frequently having the urge to urinate and a weaker urine stream. Many men adapt to the symptoms reasonably well, but it is a major problem for others that impacts their quality of life.
At the Midwest Institute for Non-Surgical Therapy (MINT), our experts specialize in treating BPH with a minimally invasive procedure called prostate artery embolization (PAE).
If you've been diagnosed with an enlarged prostate and want to know more about your condition, here are some key facts.
What exactly is an enlarged prostate?
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that sits between the bladder and the penis. BPH is a medical term to describe a prostate that has grown beyond its normal size. As the male body develops, the gland increases in size, especially during the teenage years. BPH occurs when the prostate has grown to the extent that it affects the functioning of the urinary system.
What are the causes of BPH?
Despite its prevalence, BPH causes are not well understood. However, it is widely accepted that the main risk factor is age. More than 50% of all men in their 60s have enlarged prostates, and that percentage climbs to 90% among men aged 70 to 89.
Studies have also shown that family history can also be a risk factor. Men with a family history of BPH are more likely to develop the condition than those without a history. Evidence also suggests that men who are obese are at increased risk for developing BPH.
Other risk factors are being investigated. These include high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
BPH is not cancer
While some of the symptoms are similar, benign prostatic hyperplasia isn't cancer, nor does it increase a person's risk of getting prostate cancer. In fact, the word "benign" means that it's not cancer.
However, some men with BPH may go on to develop prostate cancer. Therefore, it's always a good idea to have regular prostate screening such as a PSA test and a digital rectal exam.
An enlarged prostate presses against the bladder and urethra and can cause several problems such as:
Difficulty starting urination
A sudden need to urinate
Frequent need to urinate
Weak or interrupted urine stream
It takes longer than before to urinate
After going to the toilet, the bladder doesn't feel empty and more urine leaks out
Less common BPH symptoms include:
Blood in the urine
Inability to urinate
Urinary tract infection
The size of an enlarged prostate doesn't necessarily determine the severity of symptoms. Some men with a slightly enlarged prostate may have significant symptoms, while those with a very enlarged prostate may only be troubled by minor issues.
An Enlarged Prostate Left Untreated Can Lead To Worsening Symptoms
Left untreated, BPH can seriously affect a man's quality of life with complications such as:
Development of bladder and kidney stones
Acute urinary retention
The complete inability to urinate
The Outlook is Good
Most men who develop BPH only have mild to moderate symptoms. Sometimes they will improve on their own. That being said, symptoms usually get worse over the years.
How is BPH Diagnosed?
Problems with urination have several causes, not just an enlarged prostate. Therefore to narrow down the possibilities, a doctor will evaluate your medical history, perform a physical exam and run diagnostic tests.
Your doctor will start by collecting information to evaluate your medical history. This will include questions about symptoms associated with BPH, such as nighttime urination habits and urination frequency. You may also be asked about your daily fluid intake and whether you take any medications that may affect urination.
During the physical exam, your prostate gland will be checked. Wearing disposable gloves, the doctor will insert a finger into the rectum to feel the prostate gland's size and check for any abnormalities.
A blood test may also be done to check your PSA (prostatic-specific antigen) levels. Prostate cancer leads to elevated PSA levels but so does benign prostatic hyperplasia.
Treatments for BPH
The type of treatment typically depends on the severity of the symptoms. Sometimes no treatment is required. If necessary, the following treatments are available:
Medications to relax the bladder and reduce the prostate's size.
Lifestyle changes such as drinking less alcohol and caffeine, drinking less in the evening, and exercising regularly.
A surgical procedure to reduce the size of the prostate, usually a minimally invasive procedure
Prostate artery embolization (PAE) is a relatively new procedure performed on an outpatient basis. This means you can go home shortly afterward without being admitted to a hospital.
A catheter is passed into an artery in the leg or wrist. Using X-ray and other imaging tools, it is guided to the blood vessels that feed the prostate. Once in place, thousands of microscopic beads are released that permanently restrict some of the blood flow to the gland. This causes the prostate to shrink, improving urinary symptoms. Following the procedure, patients typically need about two hours to recover.
Get In Touch With MINT
If you want to know more about BPH and the benefits of prostate artery embolization, please get in touch with the friendly and expert team at MINT. Contact us today and schedule a consultation at one of our 5 clinics, including the latest addition in Chicago, IL.