What is an enlarged prostate?

An enlarged prostate is called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). It is when the prostate organ grows large. It is not cancerous. Doctors are not sure why this happens in some men and not others. BPH generally happens to men in their 50s or older. Because the prostate is an organ that surrounds the urethra, it may cause some difficulty with urination when it becomes enlarged. This can lead to symptoms of increased urinary frequency from the loss of the ability to get the bladder totally empty. It may also lead to a weak urine stream or difficulty in initiating urination. Because there are multiple treatments for BPH, you should consult with your doctor if you have symptoms.

Enlarged prostate, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), is a very common condition that occurs when a man's prostate gland grows beyond a normal size. This typically begins to happen in middle aged men past the age of 50. The prostate grows large enough that it presses against the urethra, restricting the flow of urine. This can lead to damage to the kidneys, bladder, and urinary tract.

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
If you have an enlarged prostate, or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), the prostate enlarges around the urethra-the major road of fluid from your internal organs to the outside world. That enlargement causes the prostate to squeeze down on the urethra like a farmer's hand around a goat's udder to disrupt typical urine flow.

Men with BPH end up getting up frequently throughout the night to urinate, but they have difficulty initiating a stream of urine. As the disease gets progressive, the difficulty worsens-and you can never get all of the urine out of your bladder. (The fear is that the urine can get backed up in the kidneys, which leads to renal failure because the urine slowly kills the kidneys over time. So keep getting up to urinate.)

The way men decide to treat BPH treated is very personal. Some opt for aggressive treatments that remove part of the prostate around the urethra; others opt for more conservative treatments like medication and alternative therapies that decrease swelling and help relax the muscle that's clamping the urethra down.
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The prostate is a single, doughnut-shaped gland about the size of a walnut that lies below the bladder and surrounds the urethra in males. The muscular part of the prostate controls the release of urine. The prostate also secretes a thin, milky, alkaline fluid that increases sperm motility and lubricates the urethra to prevent infection. Prostate secretions are extremely important to successful fertilization of the egg in females.
Benign (non-malignant) enlargement of the prostate gland is known medically as benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH. BPH is an extremely common condition. Current estimates are that it affects more than 50 percent of men during their lifetime. The actual frequency increases with advancing age, from approximately 5 to 10 percent at age 30 to more than 90 percent in men over 85 years of age.
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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.