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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

Benign prostate hypertrophy is an enlargement of the prostate gland that commonly arises after you reach the age of 40.

It can cause symptoms that interfere with your ability to urinate and affect your sex life. Here is some basic information about benign prostate hypertrophy, including what it is, what symptoms to look out for and how it’s treated.

What and where is the prostate?

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

The prostate is found behind the base of the penis and underneath the bladder. The urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the penis, runs through the middle of the prostate.

What is benign prostate hypertrophy?

Benign prostate hypertrophy, also called prostate enlargement or BPH, is a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland. The prostate enlarges slowly, and over time puts increasing pressure on the urethra and the base of the bladder. This is what causes the symptoms of BPH.

What causes BPH?

The causes of an enlarged prostate are not clear. It becomes more common as you age – half of men over the age of 60 have some symptoms. It is also related to testosterone (a male sex hormone) and may run in families.

BPH symptoms

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.

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

The symptoms of BPH can include:

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

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

BPH diagnosis

To diagnose BPH, your doctor may:

  • 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

You might also need to have a biopsy or ultrasound.

BPH treatment

BPH treatment usually depends on your symptoms. Treatment options include:

  • no treatment – especially if your symptoms are mild
  • medicines – to help manage considerable symptoms
  • surgery – you may need transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) if the symptoms are significantly affecting your 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.

Last reviewed: July 2018

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