Why BPH symptoms shouldn’t be ignored
September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and our maturing population means more men are encountering age-related prostate issues than ever before. A common one is benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH), a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate.
The condition is hereditary and, because it is associated with aging, unpreventable, but it can be treated successfully. Men 60 years and older should be aware of its symptoms.
“There is a wide constellation of symptoms associated with BPH,” explains Eric Espinosa, MD, a urologist with Kettering Health Network. “These may include a feeling of incomplete emptying, increased urinary frequency, intermittency (starting and stopping of the urine flow), urgency to urinate, weakened urinary stream, needing to strain or push to empty the bladder, and causing one to awaken at night.”
Other BPH symptoms include trouble starting urination and a feeling of a full bladder, even right after urinating. If the prostate enlargement is severe enough, urination may stop entirely. This is an emergency for which you should seek immediate treatment.
Symptoms can occur insidiously and can worsen over time. Frequently, the patient's significant other will be more alert of the problem. Getting up repeatedly during the night can interrupt the sleep cycle, causing fatigue and irritability during the day.
All men over 40 are at risk, and the causes of BPH are not well understood. Aging is a common factor; BPH might also be related to testicular issues. If a father or brother has experienced prostate problems, you likely will, too.
Diabetes and heart disease might increase the risk, particularly if the patient is being treated with beta blockers to control heart rhythm and high blood pressure.
Diagnosis and treatment
Diagnosis of BPH generally consists of several tests. A digital rectal exam and blood test are the most common, along with a urine test to rule out any infection or other conditions with similar symptoms. If your condition is more complex, an ultrasound or biopsy might be recommended.
Although BPH cannot be definitively prevented, a healthy weight and diet including plenty of fruits and vegetables may help. The Urology Care Foundation reports links between BPH and a higher level of body fat. Regular exercise and an active lifestyle will help to control weight and hormone levels, thus reducing BPH risks.
Many new non-invasive treatments can resolve the symptoms of BPH. The most common treatment for mild-to-moderate symptoms is medication. Minimally invasive surgical procedures, such as UroLift, are also available for more serious conditions.
While BPH hasn't been identified as a direct risk factor for prostate cancer, some studies indicate a presence of BPH in 83% of prostate cancer cases. If left untreated, BPH symptoms will worsen. Given the prevalence of prostate cancer among BPH patients, men exhibiting symptoms should see their physician.