Harvard Health Letter

By the way, doctor: Will Levitra overcome the problems caused by finasteride?

Q. Finasteride has been prescribed for my BPH. I think that the most frequent side effect is erectile dysfunction or loss of sexual desire. Would Levitra or a similar drug (like Viagra or Cialis) overcome the side effects of finasteride?

A. BPH stands for benign prostatic hyperplasia — and, more simply put, BPH is an enlarged prostate gland. As men get older, it's common for their prostate glands to get bigger as a result of noncancerous growth of the gland's tissue. By itself, a large prostate isn't a problem. The trouble starts when a growing prostate presses against the urethra and therefore interferes with the normal flow of urine (see illustration). When that happens, the symptoms include frequent urination, weak flow, dribbling, and a feeling that the bladder is never quite getting empty. Treatment is necessary only if the symptoms start to have a major effect on a man's life. For example, BPH can make it difficult to get a good night's sleep if it forces someone to get up frequently to go to the bathroom.

Location of the prostate

Illustration showing location of the prostate gland inside the body

There are two main types of drugs used to treat BPH, the 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors and the alpha-1 blockers. It's unfortunate that the names of both classes contain the word alpha. That makes it easy to mix them up.

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