Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), also known as an enlarged prostate, is a common condition among men as they age. This condition can cause uncomfortable urinary symptoms, such as blocking the flow of urine out of the bladder, and can also lead to problems with the bladder, urinary tract, or kidneys. In some cases, men may not be aware of the obstruction until they experience difficulty urinating. Certain over-the-counter cold and allergy medications, such as pseudoephedrine and oxymetazoline, may cause acute urinary retention as a side effect.
These medications prevent the neck of the bladder from relaxing and releasing urine. Additionally, antihistamines like diphenhydramine can weaken the contraction of the bladder muscles, leading to urinary retention, difficulty urinating, and painful urination. Partial obstruction of the urethra can also be caused by alcohol consumption, low temperatures, or a prolonged period of inactivity. The prostate is located around part of the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine and semen out of the penis.
When a man has BPH, his prostate is larger than normal, squeezing the urethra and causing weak urine flow and frequent nighttime trips to the bathroom. Mild prostate enlargement may not require treatment unless it is causing bothersome symptoms that affect quality of life. Finasteride and dutasteride are more effective for moderate prostate enlargement than alpha-blockers. A doctor may perform a physical exam to check for prostate enlargement or tenderness or any abnormalities that require further testing.
Symptoms can range from mild to severe, but the degree of prostate enlargement does not necessarily correlate with symptom severity. The exact cause of prostate enlargement is unknown but is believed to be related to hormonal changes that occur with age.