While aging brings many uncontrollable changes to the body, there are also numerous ways to care for oneself proactively. One common age-related change in men is enlargement of the prostate gland.
Even with healthy habits, most men will experience prostate growth, a condition known medically as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), as they age. Statistics indicate that approximately 50 percent of men have an enlarged prostate by age 60. By age 85, the percentage of affected men climbs to about 90 percent.
Although BPH does not increase the risk of prostate cancer or sexual dysfunction, it can harm a person’s quality of life. Specifically, BPH often leads to bothersome and embarrassing urinary symptoms.
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What is Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia?
The prostate is a gland about the size of a walnut situated beneath the male bladder. It plays a role in adding fluid to semen. As men grow older, it is common for the prostate to progressively increase in size, a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
The precise causes behind this enlargement remain unclear, but it is associated with alterations in hormonal balance and increased cell proliferation. With the expansion of the prostate, there is potential for it to narrow the urethra, which is the conduit responsible for transporting urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. This constriction can disrupt and impede the typical flow of urine.
Some common symptoms associated with BPH include:
- Reduced urine flow strength
- Nocturia (frequent nighttime urination, more than twice a night)
- Delayed initiation of urination.
- Difficulty in completely emptying the bladder
- Intermittent urination
- Struggling or straining during urination
- Post-void dribbling (urine leakage after urination)
- Discomfort or pain while urinating
- Frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Inability to initiate urination
- The presence of blood in the urine
What Causes Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia?
BPH results from a combination of multiple factors, making it challenging to identify a singular cause for each person. However, several factors appear to contribute:
Age – BPH rarely affects men under the age of 40. After age 50, the incidence rises sharply. Over 50% of men experience some BPH symptoms by age 60. Up to 90% of men may be impacted by age 85.
Hormone changes – Prostate growth could be linked to changes in hormone balance as men age. For healthy development and operation, the prostate gland needs testosterone and male sex hormones. The gland seems to enlarge as testosterone levels decrease as a form of compensation.
Cell alterations – According to research, BPH involves prostate cell hyperplasia and apoptosis. Older prostate cells proliferate and accumulate for unknown causes, resulting in additional prostate tissue.
Genetics – BPH appears to result from some hereditary factors. The risk is increased for men whose close relatives have enlarged prostates. Some genes, including MSR1, may be linked.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you experience concerning urinary symptoms, schedule an appointment with your physician. A doctor-performed digital rectal exam is often able to identify prostate enlargement.
Additionally, your doctor may analyze a urine sample to check for a treatable bladder infection.
If an enlarged prostate is causing disruptive symptoms, treatment can typically help manage them. One notable option is Holmium Laser Enucleation of the Prostate (HoLEP). This highly effective procedure can provide relief from BPH without the need for long-term medication or repeated surgeries. Additional treatment options are available, such as ReZum Water Vapor Therapy, Optimum BPH, or iTind.
In summary, while BPH cannot be cured, its symptoms are usually manageable. Communication with a healthcare provider is crucial for an accurate BPH diagnosis and developing an appropriate treatment plan. Identifying treatment options that optimize preserving a high quality of life is critical to coping with this common age-related prostate condition.