Dr. Stacy McBroom
Dr. John Upshaw
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Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia

Overview

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is not simply a case of too many prostate cells. Prostate growth involves hormones, occurs in different types of tissue (e.g., muscular, glandular), and affects men differently. As a result of these differences, treatment varies in each case. There is no cure for BPH and once prostate growth starts, it often continues, unless medical therapy is started.

The prostate grows in two different ways. In one type of growth, cells multiply around the urethra and squeeze it, much like you can squeeze a straw. The second type of growth is middle-lobe prostate growth in which cells grow into the urethra and the bladder outlet area. This type of growth typically requires surgery.

Anatomy

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland located beneath the bladder and in front of the rectum. It is surrounded by a capsule of fibrous tissue called the prostate capsule. The urethra (tube that transports urine and sperm out of the body) passes through the prostate to the bladder neck. Prostate tissue produces prostate specific antigen and prostatic acid phosphatase, an enzyme found in seminal fluid (the milky substance that combines with sperm to form semen).

Incidence and Prevalence

It is difficult to establish incidence and prevalence of BPH because research groups often use different criteria to define the condition. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), BPH affects more than 50% of men over age 60 and as many as 90% of men over the age of 70.

Risk Factor

BPH is a condition of aging. Nearly all men over the age of 50 have an enlarged prostate.

Causes

The cause of benign prostatic hyperplasia is unknown. It is possible that the condition is associated with hormonal changes that occur as men age. The testes produce the hormone testosterone, which is converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and estradiol (estrogen) in certain tissues. High levels of dihydrotestosterone, a testosterone derivative involved in prostate growth, may accumulate and cause hyperplasia. How and why levels of DHT increase remains a subject of research.

Signs and Symptoms

Common symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia include the following:

  • Blood in the urine (i.e., hematuria), caused by straining to void
  • Dribbling after voiding
  • Feeling that the bladder has not emptied completely after urination
  • Frequent urination, particularly at night (i.e., nocturia)
  • Hesitant, interrupted, or weak urine stream caused by decreased force
  • Leakage of urine (i.e., overflow incontinence)
  • Pushing or straining to begin urination
  • Recurrent, sudden, urgent need to urinate

In severe cases of BPH, another symptom, acute urinary retention (the inability to urinate), can result from holding urine for a long time, alcohol consumption, long period of inactivity, cold temperatures, allergy or cold medications containing decongestants or antihistamines, and some prescription drugs (e.g., ipratropium bromide, albuterol, epinephrine). Any of these factors can prevent the urinary sphincter from relaxing and allowing urine to flow out of the bladder. Acute urinary retention causes severe pain and discomfort. Catheterization may be necessary to drain urine from the bladder and obtain relief.