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How do alpha blockers help treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)?

Marc B. Garnick, MD
Hematology & Oncology
In the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) alpha blockers attach to certain receptors in the prostate, bladder, and urethra, blocking chemical signals that tell muscles in these structures to contract. As a result, the muscles relax, allowing urine to flow more freely.

You generally need to take these drugs indefinitely to maintain their benefits. If you stop taking the medication, the symptoms usually return to their previous levels. Over all, compared with surgical procedures, medication has a lower risk for serious adverse effects, leading most men to choose drug therapy as their initial treatment.

It is estimated that about 40% to 50% of obstructions that result in urinary symptoms are caused by an increase in the tone of the smooth muscle of the prostate. (Obstruction in the prostate also can be caused by the growth of tissue inside the prostate.)

Alpha-blocker drugs work by blocking the receptors that receive stimulation from the sympathetic nervous system and cause the smooth muscle of the prostate to contract. Blocking these receptors helps relax the smooth muscles, easing the pressure around the urethra, the bladder neck, and elsewhere in the prostate and reducing resistance to urine flow.

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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.