A non-cancerous condition that affects many men past 50 years of age, enlarged prostate makes urinating more difficult by narrowing the urethra, a tube running from the bladder through the prostate gland. It can be effectively treated by surgery and, today, by certain drugs.
The common term for enlarged prostate is BPH, which stands for benign (non-cancerous) prostatic hyperplasia or hypertrophy. Hyperplasia means that the prostate cells are dividing too rapidly, increasing the total number of cells, and, therefore, the size of the organ itself. Hypertrophy simply means “enlargement.” BPH is part of the aging process. The actual changes in the prostate may start as early as the 30s but take place very gradually, so that significant enlargement and symptoms usually do not appear until after age 50. Past this age the chances of the prostate enlarging and causing urinary symptoms become progressively greater. More than 40% of men in their 70s have an enlarged prostate. Symptoms generally appear between ages 55-75. About 10% of all men eventually will require treatment for BPH.
The cause of BPH is a mystery, but age-related changes in the levels of hormones circulating in the blood may be a factor. Whatever the cause, an enlarging prostate gradually narrows the urethra and obstructs the flow of urine. Even though the muscle in the bladder wall becomes stronger in an attempt to push urine through the smaller urethra, in time, the bladder fails to empty completely at each urination. The urine that collects in the bladder can become infected and lead to stone formation. The kidneys themselves may be damaged by infection or by urine constantly “backing up.” Some possible symptoms are:
- Increasing trouble starting the urine stream
- Blood appearing in the urine
- Changes in urination frequency
- Changes in urination urgency
- General aching or pain in the perineum (the area between the scrotum and anus)