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BPH can interfere with your ability to urinate.

BPH can interfere with your ability to urinate.
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Benign prostate hypertrophy

3-minute read

What is benign prostate hypertrophy?

Benign prostate hypertrophy, also called prostate enlargement or BPH, is a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland that is more common as men age.

The prostate enlarges slowly, and over time puts increasing pressure on the urethra (the tube that runs from the bladder through the prostate to the penis) and the base of the bladder. This is what causes the symptoms of BPH.

What and where is the prostate?

The prostate gland, which is found only in men, is an important part of the reproductive system. It secretes a fluid that is part of semen and keeps sperm alive and healthy.

The prostate is found behind the base of the penis and underneath the bladder. The urethra runs through the middle of the prostate.

What are the symptoms of benign prostate hypertrophy?

The symptoms of BPH can include:

  • inability to completely empty the bladder when peeing
  • poor urine flow
  • urgent need to pee, which can disturb sleep at night
  • dribbling of urine at the end of peeing
  • bladder infections

There are usually no symptoms at the start, even after the prostate has started to enlarge. The first sign of BPH is usually problems with urinating, because the enlarged prostate is squeezing and narrowing the urethra.

This is because the enlarged prostate is squeezing and narrowing the urethra.

Occasionally, BPH interferes with the ability to have sex, causing impotence or painful orgasms.

What causes benign prostate hypertrophy?

The causes of an enlarged prostate are not clear. BPH is common in older men. It starts after about 40 years of age, and half of men aged over 60 have some symptoms.

It is also related to testosterone (a male sex hormone) and may run in families.

How is benign prostate hypertrophy diagnosed?

Your doctor will talk to you and examine you. They may also:

  • talk to you and examine you
  • do a digital rectal examination, which involves your doctor placing a gloved finger into your rectum (back passage) to feel the size and shape of your prostate
  • do blood tests or urine tests
  • order a biopsy or ultrasound

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How is benign prostate hypertrophy treated?

BPH treatment usually depends on symptoms. Treatment options include:

  • no treatment — especially if symptoms are mild
  • medicines — to help manage considerable symptoms
  • surgery — a transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) may be required if the symptoms are significantly affecting daily life. There are also other types of surgery, including laser therapy and transurethral incision of the prostate

Read more about treatments for prostate problems.

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Last reviewed: July 2020

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