Harvard Men's Health Watch

Stress and the prostate

Men with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) often find the condition stressful. It's easy to see why. Urinary urgency that triggers a frantic hunt for a bathroom will jangle the most placid gent, and nighttime urination that interrupts sleep can only add to mental distress. If they're under stress, some young men with normal prostates can also find it hard to urinate; doctors call it paruresis or the "shy bladder syndrome."

If the symptoms of BPH can cause stress, is the reverse also true? Doctors have learned that stress can contribute to many medical conditions, ranging from palpitations, heart attacks, and hypertension to asthma, heartburn, colitis, and skin rashes. But even though mental stress can affect many of the body's organs, the prostate has been considered exempt from psychic influences. Two reports may begin to modify that view.

Stress, hostility, and BPH

To study stress and the prostate, doctors evaluated 83 men with an average age of 68. The men had all been diagnosed with BPH and were enrolled in the Medical Therapy of Prostatic Symptoms (MTOPS) study at the University of Iowa; some of the patients were taking medication for BPH while others were not. Each man underwent a complete urologic evaluation that included ultrasound measurements of his prostate and of the amount of urine that remained in his bladder after normal urination. All the men also completed questionnaires designed to measure lifelong stress, recent stress, and hostility.

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