Enlarged prostate, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), is a common condition in men over the age of 50. It is caused by hormonal changes that cause the prostate to grow larger, which can lead to uncomfortable symptoms such as difficulty urinating and frequent urination. Fortunately, there are treatments available that can reduce the size of the prostate and improve symptoms. Medications such as finasteride (Proscar) and dutasteride (Avodart) are often prescribed to reduce the size of the prostate.
These medications work by blocking hormones that cause prostate growth, but it can take up to six months for them to take full effect. Alpha-blockers are usually the first type of medication offered to treat BPH, and they can start to improve symptoms within a few hours or days. Most men who take alpha-blockers find that their symptoms improve within a few weeks of treatment, but if they don't, your doctor may suggest a higher dose or a different treatment. Alpha-blockers can continue to work for several years.
In addition to medications, there are other treatments available for BPH. Transurethral needle ablation (TUNA) uses low-energy radio waves delivered through tiny needles at the tip of a catheter to heat prostate tissue. Suprapubic prostatectomy involves opening the bladder and removing enlarged prostate nodes through the bladder. Implants can also be inserted with a needle that goes through the prostate to place a small metal tab that anchors it to the prostate capsule.
It's important to note that BPH cannot be cured, so treatment focuses on reducing symptoms. Treatment is based on the severity of the symptoms, how much they bother the patient, and whether there are complications. The more irritating the symptoms, the more aggressive the treatment should be. Painful or frequent urination should go away in about two to three weeks, and sexual side effects such as erectile dysfunction are unlikely. Eating more fiber (found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains) can help you avoid constipation, which can put pressure on your bladder and worsen symptoms of an enlarged prostate.
It is also recommended to measure levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood to detect prostate cancer, as well as to perform a digital rectal exam (DRE). Be sure to tell your doctor about any medications or herbal remedies you are already using, in case they interfere with medications for prostate enlargement. If your enlarged prostate isn't causing problems, you may decide to wait and see if your symptoms get worse before getting treatment. However, if your symptoms are severe enough that they affect your quality of life, it's important to talk to your doctor about treatment options.