Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is an enlargement of the prostate. The prostate is usually a walnut-sized gland located at the neck of the bladder. It surrounds the urethra, a tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body.
An enlarged prostate puts pressure on the urethra and can make it difficult for urine to pass. Eventually, the urethra may become completely closed off.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
The exact cause of BPH is unknown. It may be related to natural changes in hormone level that occur as men age.
The enlargement is not due to cancer.
BPH is most likely to occur in men aged 50 years or older. Other factors that may increase your chance of having BPH include: Metabolic syndrome
—A condition marked by elevated blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, and body weight, especially weight centered around the midsectionObesityLipid disordersDiet high in fats and red meat
Enlarged prostate itself does not cause symptoms. Symptoms develop when the prostate gland puts enough pressure on the urethra to interfere with the flow of urine.
Symptoms usually increase in severity over time and may include: Difficulty starting to urinateWeak urination streamDribbling at the end of urinationSensation of incomplete bladder emptyingUrge to urinate frequently, especially at nightDeep discomfort in the lower abdomenUrge incontinence
—strong, sudden urge to urinate
You will be asked about your medical history and symptoms. If BPH is suspected, a digital rectal exam may be done. A gloved finger is inserted into the rectum to assess the prostate.
To assess problems with urine flow your doctor may recommend: Urine flow studyCystometrogram—a functional study of the way your bladder fills and emptiesPost-void residual volume test—measures whether you can empty your bladder completely
Images of the prostate and urinary tract may be taken with: UltrasoundCystoscopy
Treatment is not needed for mild cases. Most men with BPH eventually request medical intervention to help with urinary symptoms.
Medication is often the first line of treatment to help reduce urinary symptoms. Medication options include: 5 alpha-reductase inhibitors—to shrink the prostate, which may decrease some urination problemsAlpha-blockers—to relax the muscles around the neck of the bladder and the prostate to improve urine flowAntimuscarinics—to relax the bladder muscles, which helps to reduce the urge to urinate frequently
Phosphodiesterase-5 enzyme inhibitor —
medication that can also improve the symptoms of BPH
Your doctor may also recommend avoiding certain medications. For example, decongestant drugs containing alpha-agonists such as pseudoephedrine can worsen BPH symptoms.
Minimally invasive procedures can decrease the size of the prostate by removing small portions of the prostate. These procedures may be used if medications were not able to reduce symptoms but surgery is not yet needed. Procedure options include: Transurethral microwave thermotherapy (TUMT)—uses microwaves to destroy excess prostate tissueTransurethral needle ablation (TUNA)—uses low levels of radio frequency energy to burn away portions of the prostateTransurethral laser therapy—uses highly focused laser energy to remove prostate tissue
Surgery may be advised if medications and noninvasive procedures are not effective. The goal of surgery is to remove excess prostate tissue or widen the pathway for urine.
Portions of the prostate may be removed with: Transurethral surgical resection of the prostate (TURP)
—a scope is inserted through the penis to remove the enlarged portion of the prostate
Open surgery—removal of the enlarged portion of the prostate through an incision, usually in the lower abdominal area, more invasive
The urethra may be widened by: Transurethral incision of the prostate (TUIP)—small cuts are made in the neck of the bladder to widen the urethra
Prostatic stents—tiny metal coils are inserted into urethra to widen it and keep it open
Usually used for men who do not want to take medication or have surgeryDoes not appear to be a good long-term option
Some herbal products have been studied as possible BPH treatments. Check with your doctor before using any supplements or alternative treatments. Herbs that may have some benefit include: Saw palmettoBeta-sitosterolPygeum
Prostate enlargement occurs naturally with age. It is more common in men with obesity and low HDL cholesterol levels. Maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthful diet may prevent prostate enlargement.
Beta-sitosterol. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary. Updated August 2013. Accessed August 17, 2015.
Fagelman E, Lowe FC. Saw palmetto berry as a treatment for BPH.
Rev Urol. 2001 Summer;3(3):134-8.
Fried NM. New laser treatment approaches for benign prostatic hyperplasia.
Curr Urol Rep. 2007 Jan;8(1):47-52.
Gacci M, Corona G, et al. Metabolic syndrome and benign prostatic enlargement: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BJU Int. 2015 Jan;115(1):24-31.
Greco KA, McVary KT. The role of combination medical therapy in benign prostatic hyperplasia.
Int J Impot Res. 2008 Dec;20 Suppl 3:S33-43.
Marberger M. Drug insight: 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia.
Nat Clin Pract Urol. 2006 Sep;3(9):495-503.
Prostate enlargement: Benign prostatic hyperplasia. National Kidney Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse website. Available at:
Updated September 24, 2014. Accessed August 17, 2015.
Roehrborn CG, Siami P, Barkin J, et al; CombAT Study Group. The effects of combination therapy with dutasteride and tamsulosin on clinical outcomes in men with symptomatic benign prostatic hyperplasia: 4-year results from the CombAT study.
Eur Urol. 2010;57(1):123-131.
Ulbricht C, Basch E, Bent S, et al. Evidence-based systematic review of saw palmetto by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration.
J Soc Integr Oncol. 2006;4(4):170-86.
Update on the UAU guideline on the management of benign prostatic hyperplasia.
J Urol. 2011 May; 185(5):1793-803.
10/7/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Barry MJ, Meleth S, Lee JY, et al. Effect of increasing doses of saw palmetto extract on lower urinary tract symptoms: a randomized trial.
10/14/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: US Food and Drug Administration. FDA approves Cialis to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at:
Updated October 6, 2011. Accessed September 3, 2014.
5/27/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Gacci M, Corona G, et al. Metabolic syndrome and benign prostatic enlargement: A systematic review and meta-analysis. BJU Int. 2014 Mar. [Epub ahead of print].
11/5/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Friedman B, Leyendecker JR, et al. ACR Appropriateness Criteria lower urinary tract symptoms: suspicion of benign prostatic hyperplasia [online publication]. Reston (VA): American College of Radiology (ACR); 2014. 5 p. Available at: http://www.guideline.gov/content.aspx?id=48292#Section420. Accessed August 17, 2015.
Last reviewed August 2015 by Adrienne Carmack, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.