What Is the Connection Between an Enlarged Prostate and Urinary Symptoms?
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that is responsible for producing seminal fluid (the fluid that sustains and carries sperm). It is located between the bladder and the penis, and it wraps around the urethra, which is the tube that allows urine to flow out of the body.
As men age, they may experience a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or an enlarged prostate. BPH is a noncancerous condition that causes the prostate to grow in size, sometimes hindering or blocking the flow of urine out of the body since the urethra runs through the prostate. This is why an enlarged prostate can cause urinary symptoms and/or bladder, kidney, or urinary tract problems.
Mild cases of BPH may cause less serious (though still frustrating) symptoms such as:
- A weak urine stream
- Dribbling after urination
- Increased frequency and urgency with urination
- Increased nighttime urination (nocturia)
- The feeling of not being able to completely empty one’s bladder
- Urination that starts and stops
Over time, these symptoms may gradually get worse. More serious symptoms of BPH include:
- The inability to urinate
- Urinary tract infection (UTI)
- Blood in the urine
BPH is a common condition in older men. It is estimated that about half of all men experience BPH at age 50, and 90% of men experience it at age 80. Even though some individuals may believe that urinary symptoms are an inevitable part of aging, there are treatment options that can help alleviate these symptoms.
For example, medications can be used to treat minor BPH symptoms. Alpha blockers relax the bladder neck muscles and the fibers in the prostate, easing urination. Other medications like 5-alpha reductase inhibitors shrink the prostate through hormonal changes.
Minimally invasive surgeries are another treatment option. For one such surgery, a transurethral incision of the prostate, two small cuts are made in the prostate gland to make it easier for urine to travel through the urethra. In a transurethral resection of the prostate, all but the outermost part of the prostate is removed. Laser therapy, radio waves, and/or microwave energy can also be used to destroy the excess prostate tissue. Nevertheless, it is important to know that some surgeries for BPH may have negative sexual consequences, so patients should talk to their surgeons (or providers) before undergoing a procedure to gain a full understanding of the possible side effects.
Regardless of the severity of one’s condition, there are ways to find relief from urinary symptoms. Those who are experiencing negative side effects of BPH should speak to their health care providers about treatment options.
- Becher, E.F., & McVary, K.T. (2014). Surgical procedures for BPH/LUTS: impact on male sexual health. Sexual medicine reviews, 2(1), 47-55. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/smrj.20
- Mayo Clinic. (2021, April 13). Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/benign-prostatic-hyperplasia/symptoms-causes/syc-20370087