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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

5-minute read

Key facts

  • Benign prostatic hypertrophy is a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland.
  • It is very common as you get older.
  • It can cause problems with passing urine, such as a poor flow or needing to pass urine urgently.
  • It may affect daily activities and lead to urinary tract infections and kidney problems.
  • Treatment depends on how troublesome your symptoms are and may include lifestyle changes, medicines or surgery.

What is benign prostatic hypertrophy?

Benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) is a non-cancerous (benign) enlargement of the prostate gland. It is also known as benign prostate enlargement or hyperplasia.

The prostate gland is part of the male reproductive system. It sits under the bladder and wraps around the top of the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine out of the bladder. The prostate may get bigger and press on or block the urethra.

What are the symptoms of benign prostatic hypertrophy?

BPH can cause problems with urinating, because the enlarged prostate squeezes and narrows the urethra. These symptoms can include:

  • inability to completely empty your bladder when urinating
  • poor urine flow
  • an urgent need to pass urine
  • difficulty getting started or dribbling of urine at the end of urinating
  • getting up at night to pass urine
  • passing urine more or less often than usual

These symptoms may interfere with your daily activities and cause you distress.

BPH may interfere with your ability to have sex, causing impotence or painful orgasms.

What causes benign prostatic hypertrophy?

The cause of BPH is not clear. It may be connected to changes in your hormone levels as you get older. The male hormone testosterone can affect the prostate and enlarge it.

BPH is common in older males. Around 5 in 10 males aged over 50 and more than 8 in 10 males aged over 80 have some symptoms of BPH.

Your risk of BPH is higher if you:

When should I see my doctor?

See your doctor if you are having trouble with urination. Your doctor can check whether your symptoms are due to BPH or another cause. They can also give you advice about what you can do to relieve your symptoms.

It's especially important to see your doctor if:

How is benign prostatic hypertrophy diagnosed?

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

  • 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
  • refer you for blood tests or urine tests
  • order an ultrasound of your urinary tract

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How is benign prostatic hypertrophy treated?

Treatment usually depends on how much your symptoms are affecting your health and wellbeing. Your doctor might refer you to a urologist.

If your symptoms are mild, it may be enough to make some lifestyle changes, such as:

  • cutting down on caffeine and alcohol
  • avoiding spicy or acidic foods
  • not drinking fluids in the evening
  • avoiding or treating constipation
  • doing pelvic floor exercises

If your symptoms are more troublesome, there are medicines that can help, such as tamsulosin. Many people need to take a combination of medicines.

If your symptoms are significantly affecting your daily life, you may choose to have an operation called transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP). There are also other types of surgery for BPH, including laser therapy and less invasive procedures. You can talk to your urologist about the most suitable options for you.

Can benign prostatic hypertrophy be prevented?

Most males will get BPH as they get older. However, you can try to prevent health conditions that put you at higher risk. Maintain a healthy weight and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.

What are the complications of benign prostatic hypertrophy?

If BPH is not treated, it can lead to other problems, including:

Having BPH does not increase your risk of developing prostate cancer.

Resources and support

If you are concerned about symptoms of BPH, talk to your doctor.

You can also call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 at any time, to speak to a nurse for more information and advice.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2022

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