Benign enlargement of the prostate is a common condition in which your prostate gland swells beyond normal size. It is also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH. If you have this disorder, keep in mind that it is not cancer. The condition does, however, still require treatment if it is accompanied by symptoms.
The prostate gland is only found in men and is normally about the size of a walnut. It sits immediately underneath the bladder and just above the penis. A tube called the urethra, which carries urine from your bladder, passes through the centre of the prostate gland. An enlarged prostate can compress the urethra, which causes narrowing or blockage of the tube and prevents your urine from flowing normally. Fortunately, your prostate gland is not essential to sustain life. It is possible to surgically remove the prostate if the problems interfere too much with your quality of life.
What Causes Benign Enlargement of the Prostate?
Once you reach age 45, you are more likely to develop an enlarged prostate. Your risk increases as you age. Around one-third of men older than 50 have an enlarged prostate. By age 85, this increases to a whopping 90%.
Some research suggests that prostate enlargement could result from hormonal changes occurring in men as they age. If you have a close relative with benign prostate enlargement, you are more likely to develop the condition yourself.
What Are The Symptoms of Benign Enlargement of the Prostate?
If you have an enlarged prostate, you may experience some of the following symptoms, which tend to worsen as time goes on:
- A need to urinate more often than normal
- An increased need to urinate during the night
- Finding it difficult to start urinating
- Having a flow of urine that is weak, or stops and starts
- Feeling as if you have to strain to produce urine
- Feeling as if your bladder has not emptied properly after urinating
- Urine continuing to drip out after you have finished urinating
You may also experience complications from an enlarged prostate, such as a urinary tract infection. You could also develop bladder or kidney stones. However, not everyone experiences symptoms. You may even experience symptoms that don’t appear to relate to the prostate gland.
How is Benign Enlargement of the Prostate Diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms. They may perform a rectal examination to check the size and shape of your prostate gland. You also may undergo urine and blood tests. These tests will check for infections and measure the prostate-specific antigen levels in your blood. The PSA number goes up when the prostate enlarges.
High levels of PSA can sometimes indicate prostate cancer, and your doctor may want to check for this. If there is any doubt at all, your doctor can analyse a sample of cells from your prostate. You may also need an ultrasound scan. Another test is a cystoscopy, where your doctor inserts a slender instrument with a camera into the urethra through the end of the penis. Your doctor can use this method to inspect your prostate gland from within the body. You might also need to urinate into a device that measures your urine flow.
If you experience any symptoms of benign enlargement of the prostate then get in touch with your GP.