When a man reaches about age 25, his prostate begins to grow. This natural growth is called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and it is the most common cause of prostate enlargement. BPH is a benign condition that does not lead to prostate cancer, though the two problems can coexist.
Although 50% to 60% of men with BPH may never develop any symptoms, others find that BPH can make life miserable. The symptoms of BPH include:
- a hesitant, interrupted, weak urine stream
- urgency, leaking, or dribbling
- a sense of incomplete emptying
- more frequent urination, especially at night.
As a result, many men seek treatment. The good news is that treatments are constantly being improved. Patients and their physicians now have more medications to choose from, so if one doesn't do the trick, another can be prescribed. And thanks to some refinements, surgical treatments are more effective and have fewer side effects than ever before.
But there are some things men dealing with BPH can do on their own. When symptoms are not particularly bothersome, watchful waiting may be the best way to proceed. This involves regular monitoring to make sure complications aren't developing, but no treatment. For more troubling symptoms, most doctors begin by recommending a combination of lifestyle changes and medication. Often this will be enough to relieve the worst symptoms and prevent the need for surgery
Tips for relieving BPH symptoms
Four simple steps can help relieve some of the symptoms of BPH:
- Some men who are nervous and tense urinate more frequently. Reduce stress by exercising regularly and practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation.
- When you go to the bathroom, take the time to empty your bladder completely. This will reduce the need for subsequent trips to the toilet.
- Talk with your doctor about all prescription and over-the-counter medications you're taking; some may contribute to the problem. Your doctor may be able to adjust dosages or change your schedule for taking these drugs, or he or she may prescribe different medications that cause fewer urinary problems.
- Avoid drinking fluids in the evening, particularly caffeinated and alcoholic beverages. Both can affect the muscle tone of the bladder and stimulate the kidneys to produce urine, leading to nighttime urination.
For more on advances in the diagnosis and treatment of prostate diseases, read the Annual Report on Prostate Diseases from Harvard Medical School.