Benign prostatic hyperplasia also called BPH is a condition in men in which the prostate gland is enlarged and not cancerous. Benign prostatic hyperplasia is also called benign prostatic hypertrophy or benign prostatic obstruction.
The prostate goes through two main growth periods as a man ages. The first occurs early in puberty, when the prostate doubles in size. The second phase of growth begins around age 25 and continues during most of a man’s life. Benign prostatic hyperplasia often occurs with the second growth phase.
As the prostate enlarges, the gland presses against and pinches the urethra. The bladder wall becomes thicker. Eventually, the bladder may weaken and lose the ability to empty completely, leaving some urine in the bladder. The narrowing of the urethra and urinary retention—the inability to empty the bladder completely—cause many of the problems associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia.
The prostate is a walnut-shaped gland that is part of the male reproductive system. The main function of the prostate is to make a fluid that goes into semen. Prostate fluid is essential for a man’s fertility. The gland surrounds the urethra at the neck of the bladder. The bladder neck is the area where the urethra joins the bladder. The bladder and urethra are parts of the lower urinary tract. The prostate has two or more lobes, or sections, enclosed by an outer layer of tissue, and it is in front of the rectum, just below the bladder. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. In men, the urethra also carries semen out through the penis.
The cause of benign prostatic hyperplasia is not well understood; however, it occurs mainly in older men. Benign prostatic hyperplasia does not develop in men whose testicles were removed before puberty. For this reason, some researchers believe factors related to aging and the testicles may cause benign prostatic hyperplasia.
Throughout their lives, men produce testosterone, a male hormone, and small amounts of estrogen, a female hormone. As men age, the amount of active testosterone in their blood decreases, which leaves a higher proportion of estrogen. Scientific studies have suggested that benign prostatic hyperplasia may occur because the higher proportion of estrogen within the prostate increases the activity of substances that promote prostate cell growth.
Another theory focuses on dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a male hormone that plays a role in prostate development and growth. Some research has indicated that even with a drop in blood testosterone levels, older men continue to produce and accumulate high levels of DHT in the prostate. This accumulation of DHT may encourage prostate cells to continue to grow. Scientists have noted that men who do not produce DHT do not develop benign prostatic hyperplasia.
Men with the following factors are more likely to develop benign prostatic hyperplasia:
A health care provider diagnoses benign prostatic hyperplasia based on
A health care provider may refer men to a urologist—a doctor who specializes in urinary problems and the male reproductive system—though the health care provider most often diagnoses benign prostatic hyperplasia on the basis of symptoms and a digital rectal exam. A urologist uses medical tests to help diagnose lower urinary tract problems related to benign prostatic hyperplasia and recommend treatment. Medical tests may include:
Researchers have developed a number of minimally invasive procedures that relieve benign prostatic hyperplasia symptoms when medications prove ineffective. These procedures include:
Minimally invasive procedures can destroy enlarged prostate tissue or widen the urethra, which can help relieve blockage and urinary retention caused by benign prostatic hyperplasia.
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