An enlarged prostate, or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), is a common condition that affects many men as they age. It can cause a range of bothersome symptoms, such as difficulty urinating, frequent trips to the bathroom, and sudden splashes. Fortunately, there are treatments available to help manage the symptoms of an enlarged prostate. For most patients, BPH is curable.
Some people find relief with medication alone, while others may need surgery to remove enough of the prostate to provide relief. If the symptoms are mild and not bothersome, treatment may not be necessary. A third of men with mild BPH find that their symptoms go away without treatment. Medications such as alpha-blockers can help relax the muscles of the prostate and around the opening of the bladder, making it easier to urinate.
Laser surgery is another option for men with moderate to severe urinary symptoms who have moderate prostate enlargement. This type of surgery involves inserting an endoscope through the tip of the penis into the urethra and using a laser to remove excess prostate tissue. If visits to the bathroom require sudden splashes or are characterized by difficulty urinating, it may be a sign that the prostate is enlarged. The degree of prostate enlargement is not directly related to the severity of the symptoms, which can range from mild and barely noticeable to severe.
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 bothersome or affect your quality of life or overall health, it's time to talk to your doctor about treatment options. 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. To help your doctor understand how annoying the symptoms of an enlarged prostate are for you, the American Urological Association (AUA) has developed a BPH symptom index. At this time, there is no evidence that acupuncture or homeopathy can help control the symptoms of an enlarged prostate. For more information on advances in the diagnosis and treatment of prostate diseases, read the Harvard Medical School Annual Report on Prostate Diseases.
You're not alone: The Urology Care Foundation estimates that 50 percent of men in their 50s have an enlarged prostate.