The Basic Facts on Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)
BPH is enlargement of the prostate gland, and is sometimes called “prostrate enlargement”.1 It occurs because the prostate gland slowly grows as men age.1 In fact, the prostate gland can roughly double in size between 50 years of age and 80 years of age.
BPH is a very common condition. It affects about half of men who are in their 50s, and about 70% of men who are in their 60s.2 In fact, most men will experience BPH at some point in time in their life.1
Because the prostate gland sits just below the bladder, BPH can disrupt urination in a variety of ways, and it’s different for every man. Pain during urination is one possible symptom.3 Other symptoms include a slow or dribbling flow of urine, and an urgent need to urinate.1 Together, these symptoms are sometimes called LUTS – lower urinary tract symptoms.
How is BPH treated and managed?
During the early stages of BPH, treatment with medication can help to relieve the symptoms.3 Plus there are natural medicines that provide relief from the symptoms, such as supplements containing African Cherry and Stinging Nettle extracts.4
In the later stages of BPH, or when medicines are not helpful, some men need other types of therapy. Techniques such as ultrasound and laser surgery are sometimes used to remove excess prostate tissue.3
Are there any other ways to deal with BPH symptoms?
As well as treatments, there are many simple lifestyle changes that you can try to reduce bothersome BPH symptoms. Here are some strategies that can be helpful:5
• Cut back on coffee and alcohol, and don't drink anything close to bedtime. These are great ways to prevent frequent trips to the toilet, including that pesky need to go in the middle of the night.
• Try to gradually and gently get into a routine of urinating only 4 or 5 times a day, at regular intervals, and try to fully empty your bladder each time. Be gentle though – don’t delay too long when you feel the urge, you don’t want to stretch your bladder muscles too much.
• Stay active! Even if you can only manage a bit of exercise, it can help to reduce BPH symptoms.
• In the colder months, remember to keep warm, because feeling cold can make the need to urinate feel more urgent.
• If you take decongestants or antihistamines, ask your doctor whether it’s okay to cut back on these, as they can affect urination.
What causes BPH?
The prostate gland gets larger throughout life, due to the hormone testosterone.1 Its growth is particularly rapid during two stages of life – when boys go through puberty, and again much later in life (from about 50 to 80 years of age).1 So testosterone plays an important role in BPH. However, other factors seem to be involved too, such as genetics, race and even alcohol consumption.1,2
Does BPH get worse?
Over time, BPH can worsen. So without treatment, its symptoms can also worsen.1 This is why it’s important to speak with a healthcare professional when you have mild symptoms, rather than waiting until your symptoms become more troubling. It’s also a good reason to try alleviating your symptoms with lifestyle changes.6
Can BPH go away on its own?
In some mild cases of BPH, the condition doesn’t worsen, with mild symptoms disappearing for about 1 in 3 men. In the other cases BPH has to be cured.7
Does BPH cause erectile dysfunction or problems with ejaculation?
It is possible for BPH to affect sexual performance, and some men with BPH will develop erectile dysfunction. But the link between BPH and erectile dysfunction isn’t straightforward. What we know is that some medicines for BPH can cause erectile dysfunction or lead to decreased ejaculation. On the flip side, treating erectile dysfunction can provide relief from BPH symptoms.8
Surgery for BPH can also affect sexual function. For example, surgery may lead to semen being released into the bladder during orgasms, rather than out of the penis. This is known as “retrograde ejaculation” or “dry orgasm”. While it can affect male fertility, it isn’t actually harmful.8
So if you’re experiencing bothersome symptoms of BPH and are worried about it affecting your sexual performance, it’s best to speak with your doctor about both issues. That way you can tackle them together.
1. Andrology Australia. Prostate enlargement or BPH. Available at: https://andrologyaustralia.org/prostate-problems/prostate-enlargement-or-bph Accessed February 2019.
2. Nimeh T, et al. Semin Intervent Radiol 2016; 33(3): 244-250.
3. Healthline. What’s the difference between prostatitis and BPH. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/enlarged-prostate/prostatitis-and-bph Accessed February 2019.
4. Krzeski T , et al. Clin Ther 1993; 15(6): 1011-1020.
5. Mayo Clinic. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/benign-prostatic-hyperplasia/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20370093 Accessed February 2019.
6. John Muir Health. Benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH). Available at: https://www.johnmuirhealth.com/health-education/health-wellness/mens-health/benign-prostate-hyperplasia-BPH.html Accessed February 2019.
7. WebMD. Enlarged prostate treatments. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/men/guide/treatments-enlarged-prostate-bph#1 Accessed February 2019.
8. Healthline. It’s complicated: enlarged prostate and sex. https://www.healthline.com/health/enlarged-prostate/sexual-function Accessed February 2019.