What medications help treat an enlarged prostate?

There are a number of ways to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) -- an enlarged prostate. The most common consequence of BPH is frequent waking during the night to pee. The simplest thing to try is limiting your intake of liquids -- particularly alcoholic liquids -- near bedtime. Alcohol stimulates urination and, of course, the extra liquid adds to the load of urine in your bladder.

If that doesn't work, there are two types of medications that can help:
  • Alpha blockers relax the muscles in the prostate and bladder. This can improve urine flow. Alpha blockers do not usually reduce the size of the prostate. They are usually taken as pills once or twice a day, and work almost immediately. Side effects can include headaches, dizziness, light-headedness, fatigue, and changes in the way you ejaculate.
  • 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors are pills that can improve urine flow and reduce the size of the prostate. It may take as long as six months to a year, however, for the drugs to work fully. Side effects can include erection problems, low sexual desire, and reduced semen release during ejaculation.
Sometimes the two types of medications can be used at the same time, which can give men quick relief of symptoms while the longer-acting drugs begin to shrink the prostate.

Interestingly, some recent studies have shown that sildenafil (aka Viagra) can improve symptoms of BPH when taken daily. Although we know clearly why Viagra and similar drugs boost erections, it's not clear how they improve BPH symptoms because the men who say it has helped them don't show any evidence of improved urine flow. Before you try popping a daily Viagra, it would be wise to wait for more research... but it's certainly an intriguing line of inquiry and suggests, at the very least, that if you're already using Viagra, you may be helping any BPH symptoms you may be feeling.

For a man with moderate-to-severe benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or enlarged prostate symptoms, alpha-blocker drugs that specifically target prostate muscle contraction are usually the initial treatment. These drugs are less expensive, work faster, and address symptoms better than the enzyme inhibitors finasteride and dutasteride, which reduce the size of the glandular tissue. But for a man who has a palpably enlarged prostate and does not respond to alpha-blockers, enzyme inhibitors are usually prescribed.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.