Benign prostate enlargement is a common condition in older men. While it is not dangerous, it can cause considerable discomfort and adversely affect your quality of life. Our expert urologists explain benign prostate enlargement and the advanced diagnostic and management options we have at Northern Beaches Hospital.

What is benign prostate enlargement?

The prostate gland is about the size of a golf ball and sits just below the bladder in men. It wraps around the urethra, which is the tube that takes urine from the bladder out of your body. In benign prostate enlargement (BPE) the prostate gradually grows bigger than normal, which can lead to symptoms with urinary and  sexual function.

It is a benign condition, which means it is not caused by cancerous changes in the cells. BPE is common, affecting about 50% of men aged over 50 and more than 80% of men aged over 80. It is also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia or benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH).

Other conditions can cause the prostate to grow, including prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland) and prostate cancer. If you have any concerns about your prostate health, it’s essential to see a qualified healthcare professional to get the right diagnosis and treatment.​​​​​

Benign prostate enlargement causes

Exactly what causes benign prostate enlargement is not known. However, experts think it is linked to hormonal changes that occur as men get older.

Certain factors can increase your risk of developing BPE, including:

  • obesity
  • other health conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome
  • not eating enough fruit and vegetables
  • a family history of BPE.

Signs and symptoms of benign enlarged prostate

Symptoms of benign enlarged prostate include:

  • problems with starting urination or dribbling at the end
  • feeling like you have to strain to get urine out
  • not being able to empty your bladder completely
  • needing to urinate urgently or more often
  • poor or weak urine flow
  • getting up at night to pass urine
  • urine leakage (urinary incontinence)
  • impotence or painful orgasms.

Some men only have mild symptoms that do not require treatment. In other men, symptoms can be more severe and interfere with everyday function and quality of life.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, book an appointment with your GP.​​​​​

Benign prostate enlargement diagnosis and testing

If your GP suspects you have BPE, they will ask you about your symptoms and how they are affecting you. They may recommend one or more tests, such as:

  • digital rectal examination – your GP may feel your prostate gland through the wall of your rectum.
  • blood tests – blood tests can provide information about how well your kidneys are working and also check the levels of prostate-specific antigen (a protein produced by the prostate gland that is sometimes raised in men who have prostate problems).
  • urine tests – to check for substances such as blood or an infection in your urine.
  • an ultrasound scan – to look for any changes in your urinary tract.

Your GP might refer you to a urologist if they feel you could benefit from specialist assessment and management.​​​​

Benign prostatic enlargement treatment options

Benign prostate enlargement treatment will depend on the severity of symptoms and how they are affecting your everyday life.

Treatment options for benign prostatic hyperplasia include:

Watchful waiting

In mild cases of benign prostate enlargement where symptoms are not causing distress, your doctor might recommend monitoring the condition on a regular basis.

Lifestyle changes

Making some simple changes to your daily life can help to ease the symptoms. You might benefit from:

  • avoiding or reducing caffeine and alcohol
  • managing how much fluid you drink each day
  • avoiding or monitoring the use of any medications that could aggravate your symptoms, such as antidepressants, antihistamines, and diuretics
  • pelvic floor muscle exercises
  • bladder retraining (training your bladder to hold more urine for longer)
  • preventing or treating constipation.

Your doctor might prescribe medications to shrink the prostate or stop it growing further, or to help relax the bladder.

Minimally invasive procedures

Urologists can use various minimally invasive procedures to remove enlarged prostate tissue or widen the urethra, helping to normalise urine flow. These include:

  • transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP)
  • laser therapy
  • Rezūm steam therapy
  • UroLift
  • prostatic artery embolisation.

Surgery to remove the prostate may be recommended if you have moderate to severe symptoms that have not responded to other types of treatment.​​​​​​

Benign prostatic hyperplasia treatment Northern Beaches Hospital

While BPE is not a life-threatening condition, it can sometimes cause distress and reduced quality of life. If you have any concerns about your prostate health, start with a visit to your GP.

At Northern Beaches Hospital, our experienced urologists offer advanced diagnosis and treatment options for men living with benign prostate enlargement. You can use our specialist and doctor search to find leading Northern Beaches prostate specialists and doctors and ask your GP for a referral to one of them.

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