Benign enlargement of the prostate gland is natural consequence of aging. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) will be present in about one quarter of men by the time they reach the age of 55. This figure reaches 50% of all men age 75 and older. The prostate gland that produces fluid for the transport of sperm and surrounds the urethra that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body can have a tendency to grow with age for reasons not entirely known and results in compression of the urethra resulting in symptoms of decrease in urine flow, dribbling after urination, and getting up at night to urinate. Here are 5 facts men should know about their prostate and benign enlargement of the prostate gland:

What does benign enlargement of the prostate gland mean?

Sometimes a man may hear the term “hyperplasia of the prostate which means the same thing as benign enlargement of the prostate. The word “hyperplasia” means an enlargement of an organ or tissue caused by an increase in the number of its cells. Hyperplasia of the prostate indicates the walnut shaped gland has grown, possibly affecting the male urinary and reproductive systems.

The word benign means “not cancerous.” Benign enlargement of the prostate gland is not linked to cancer of the prostate and does not increase a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer.

Development and causes of BPH

The causes of BPH are not completely understood. Appearing to play a role in the enlargement of the prostate gland could be changes occurring with male sex hormones as part of the aging process. Testosterone or the primary male hormone affects prostate growth. Testosterone is produced in the testes throughout a man’s life but starts to decline in men in their late 20s or early 30s.

The prostate coverts testosterone to another powerful hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT stimulates cell growth in the prostate gland and is the major cause of the rapid prostate enlargement that occurs between puberty and young adulthood. DHT is a prime suspect in prostate enlargement in later adulthood.

Symptoms of the enlarged prostate gland

Generally, BPH is considered a harmless condition unless a man is bothered by the symptoms. Symptoms can include an urgent or frequent need to urinate, slow flow, difficulty starting a urine stream, dribbling, not being able to completely empty the bladder or having to get up frequently during the night to urinate. All men are unique, and therefore not all men with BPH will experience these symptoms. It depends on which area of the prostate enlarges that will determine if there is any urinary obstruction or compression of the urethra.

Simple steps a man can do at home to manage symptoms

There are some things a man can do that may help reduce how much BPH affects his quality of life: Men should take their time and relax when urinating. Practice “double voiding” by urinating as much as possible, relaxing for a few moments, and then urinating again.
Spread fluid intake throughout the day. Limit fluid intake in the evening if night time urination is a problem.
If possible avoid medications that can make symptoms worse. These might include antihistamines, decongestants, allergy pills, antidepressants and pain medicines such as codeine, Percocet or Oxycontin. Testosterone replacement therapy in middle aged and older men have been implicated in the condition of benign enlargement of the prostate gland.  It is my opinion that testosterone replacement is seldom the cause of benign enlargement of the prostate gland and is perfectly safe in men with prostate gland enlargement providing they are monitored regularly with a PSA test and a digital rectal examination.

Other treatments options are available

Fortunately, there are a range of treatment options available for the enlarged prostate gland. If a man has minimal or no symptoms no treatment may is required. Treatment for enlarged prostate gland will depend if the prostate is continuing to enlarge and what symptoms are present. Options for treating enlarged prostate gland include:

Watchful waiting. This is done of a man has few if any symptoms and the prostate enlargement is stable.
Medications used for controlling symptoms such as Avodart, Cardura, Uroxatral, Proscar, Cialis, and Flomax.
Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP). This surgery is considered to be the optimum treatment for BPH. It reduces symptoms in 80-90% of patients.
A new treatment or UroLift is available for treating the enlarged prostate gland by using a minimally invasive treatment that can often be performed in the doctor’s office under a local anesthetic and can almost immediately produce relief in a man urinary symptoms secondary to the enlarged prostate gland.

Bottom Line: The enlarged prostate gland affects millions of American men.  The diagnosis is easily made by a careful history and physical examination.  Effective treatments are available that can help nearly all men with an enlarged prostate gland.  Speak to your doctor.