Sexual Health Q&A

What is benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)? How is it diagnosed?

BPH, or benign prostatic hyperplasia, is an enlargement of the prostate, a walnut-sized gland that produces the seminal fluid that mixes with sperm when a man ejaculates.

Generally, a man’s prostate grows as he gets older, so having an enlarged prostate is very common. According to the Urology Care Foundation, about half of men in their fifties have an enlarged prostate, and up to 90% of men over age 80 do.

As the term suggests, BPH is benign. It is not the same as having prostate cancer; the two conditions are different. However, it’s still possible for men with BPH to develop cancer.

Men with BPH sometimes have trouble urinating. That’s because the urethra, the tube that urine passes through on its way out of the body, runs right through the prostate gland. Prostate tissue grows inward, and as the gland gets bigger, it can start to press on the urethra, making it harder for urine to get out.

Some of the urinary symptoms of BPH include the following:

  • Having to strain or push to urinate
  • Weak flow of urine
  • Feeling like the bladder isn’t completely empty after urinating
  • Urgent need to urinate
  • Needing to urinate more often
  • Waking up frequently at night to urinate

Some men with BPH also experience erectile dysfunction (ED).

To diagnose BPH, a doctor will likely run several tests. One is a digital rectal exam, during which the doctor places a gloved finger into the man’s rectum to feel for any abnormalities. A man may be asked to complete the BPH Symptom Score questionnaire, which helps determine how severe urinary symptoms are. Urine and ultrasound testing may also be used, along with a blood PSA test, if prostate cancer is suspected.

Other possible tests include the post-void residual volume (PRV) test (which determines how much urine is left in the bladder after a man urinates), cystoscopy, (which uses a scope to examine the bladder and urethra), and uroflowmetry (which evaluates the flow of urine).

Men who experience any sort of urinary problem are urged to see their doctor for a full checkup.


Urology Care Foundation

“How is BPH Diagnosed?”

“What is Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)?”


“Causes – BPH”


“What Are the Symptoms of BPH?”
(Reviewed: October 4, 2016)

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