What is benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)?

Prostate enlargement is a condition that may begin in men about the ages of 40 to 45 due to hormone changes. The medical name for this is benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH is not cancer and does not turn into cancer. The symptoms may include problems with urinating as the prostate tissue grows, squeezing and partially blocking the urethra, the drainage tube through which urine flows out of the body.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) refers to the normal growth of the prostate over time.

Normally, the prostate gland is about the size of a walnut. It's attached to the base of the bladder. The urethra, which is the tube that carries urine out of the body, goes right through the prostate gland.

In most men, the prostate gland slowly grows with time. This type of growth is not cancer. It's benign, meaning it is not life-threatening. The medical name for this condition is benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). "Hyperplasia" means tissue growth. More than half of men over age 60 have signs of BPH, and about 90% of men over age 70 have this condition.
Marc B. Garnick, MD
Hematology & Oncology
Around the time of a man's 25th birthday, his prostate begins to grow. This natural enlargement is called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). It is the most common cause of prostate enlargement. Indeed, if a man lives long enough, he will almost certainly experience some degree of BPH. Keep in mind that this is a benign condition that doesn't lead to cancer, although the two problems can coexist.

No one knows exactly why BPH occurs. One popular theory suggests that the prostate begins to grow because of shifts in the balance between testosterone, a male hormone, and estrogen, a female hormone present in men in small amounts. Testosterone production declines with advancing age, changing the ratio of testosterone to estrogen. Some animal studies have shown that this shift in hormone balance may start a chain reaction, causing the rapid cell reproduction seen with prostate enlargement. Other animal studies suggest that the accumulation of the male hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in the prostate may encourage cells to divide.

As the prostate enlarges, it starts to press against the urethra and the bladder, like a foot stepping on a garden hose or fingers pinching a soda straw. This gradually blocks  the flow of urine, forcing the bladder to work harder to push urine through the urethra. But straining to urinate, although unavoidable, only makes matters worse. Like any muscle, the bladder wall becomes thicker with work. This reduces the amount of urine the bladder can hold and causes it to contract even when it contains only small amounts of urine, causing more frequent urination. Eventually, the bladder becomes so thick that it loses its elasticity and can no longer empty itself.

The course of BPH varies from one man to the next. In some, the disease may progress to a certain point and reach a plateau of mild symptoms that never worsen, or the prostate may continue to enlarge but grow away from the urethra, causing no additional impingement. Particularly in the early years of the condition, the symptoms may abate before worsening again. In other men, the disease progresses and the symptoms intensify steadily, year after year. In the worst cases, the prostate can grow as large as an orange.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is the abnormal growth of benign prostate cells. It is not cancer. The cells form too much tissue but do not invade nearby tissue or spread to other parts of the body as cancer cells can. In BPH, the prostate grows larger and pushes against the urethra and bladder, blocking the normal flow of urine. BPH is exceedingly common in men as they age.

After age 50, the proportion of men who have some sign of BPH is approximately the same as a man's age; e.g., 50% at age 50, 70% at age 70, 90% at age 90. It is not a threat to life, but it may require treatment if the symptoms become too troublesome. There are medications, including herbal treatments, as well as surgical procedures that can help relieve urinary symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
BPH stands for benign prostatic hyperplasia or an enlarged prostate. This is a common condition in men that often causes problems with urination. Watch Dr. Oz talk about BPH.
Kelly Traver
Internal Medicine
Men also have a type of menopause as their testosterone wanes, but the process is much more subtle and gradual. Though men don't go through the turbulence of menopause as women do, they have their own issues. Men often gradually start to notice a slowing of the urinary stream as their prostate enlarges. Slow, gradual enlargement of the prostate gland is called benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH). Fifty percent of men have BPH by age 60, and 90 percent have it by age 85. Because the prostate gland wraps right around the urethra, its enlargement can interfere with urinating, so much that sleep becomes disrupted because it becomes necessary to urinate every two hours since the bladder never empties entirely. There are, of course, medications and procedures to fix this if it becomes a real nuisance; some men try herbs such as saw palmetto, though there isn't solid evidence that it helps significantly.
Benign Prostate Hyperplasia (BPH) is the most common reason for prostatic difficulties usually starting in a man's 50s - 60s and continuing throughout his life. Not only does the prostate start to enlarge in an outward direction, but also starts to press inward, creating more pressure on the urethra. This results in more pressure needed to start urination and the feeling that a man has to push to get the flow of urine started. Because urinating becomes more difficult as the pressure continues to increase, there comes a point where a man cannot completely empty his bladder each time he urinates. Since he already has some urine in there, it takes much less time to fill up his bladder again and then he has to urinate soon after. This also contributes to a man having to get up at night to urinate frequently as well. A couple of drops of urine can also remain in the urethra which then dribble out after he has stopped. This increased pressure on the urethra can also interfere with ejaculation, making it uncomfortable, painful, or even make it detour into the bladder.

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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.