What You Need to Know About BPH (Benign Prostate Hypertrophy)
For a huge chunk of your life, you have been enjoying your nights, almost sleeping like a stone. But now, this has slightly changed, and your nights are now characterized by bothersome bathroom trips, once or two times every single night!
If this is the case, then there is a high chance you are suffering from BPH, also known as Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia. For most men out there, frequent nightly bathroom runs are usually the initial sign of an enlarged prostate. And, like gray hair, BPH is a natural consequence of aging, doctors agree.
So, what exactly is BPH?
Benign prostatic hyperplasia is a non-cancerous health condition that is characterized by an enlarged prostate gland. This is a process that occurs gradually, throughout a man’s life. It is a very common condition that nearly every man experiences at some stage in his life. It may or may not result in visible symptoms. However, more than half of all men aged 50 and above display some urinary symptoms.
Research has shown that prostate enlargement is currently the most common prostate health-related issue among men over 50 years. And by age 60, over one-half of men have BPH. And by age 85, nearly 90% of men suffer from this particular health problem, according to the American Association of Urology.
The prostate gland is typically a male reproductive organ whose major work is to secrete prostate fluid, one of the semen components. The muscles of the prostate gland equally help propel this seminal fluid through to the urethra during ejaculation. Unfortunately, though the prostate is strategically located to deliver this important fluid as well as squeezing things along when the time is right, its location around the urethra can lead to problems if the gland either enlarges. In other words, an enlarged prostate compresses your urethra and also irritates the walls of the bladder hence interfering with normal urination.
So, how do I know if I have BPH?
Some of the most common symptoms associated with this disease include:
- Numerous visits to the toilet during the night.
- Difficulty starting to urinate.
- Dribbling at the end of urination.
- A feeling that you are not done urinating.
- An increase in both urgency and frequency to urinate.
- Weak urine stream.
Together, the above symptoms constitute what is referred to as LUT, or lower urinary tract symptoms. Other common symptoms that may accompany LUT include, erection problems or acute urinary retention, which means you won’t be able to pass urine regardless of how hard you try. As you may have guessed, this can be a stressful situation and you will have to seek immediate medical attention. Your doctor may need to put a tube into your penis to help propel out the urine.
It is also imperative to note that chronic prostate obstruction can lead to damage to your bladder and kidneys.
How is BPH diagnosed?
There are several techniques your doctor can use to clarify whether your symptoms are related to BPH or not. These techniques include:
- DRE or digital rectal examination: Here, your doctor will insert a highly lubricated, gloved finger into your rectum to know how your prostate feels. An enlarged prostate gland is at least three finger-breadths across.
- Ultrasound: This is a relatively more minimally invasive approach and thus more comfortable even though quite expensive. Ultrasound can be done on either your tummy or rectum, according to what your doctor feels is right for you.
- Uro-dynamic study: During this test, you will have to urinate into a toilet equipped with many sensors to tell you how fast your urine is flowing.
Bearing in mind that some of the symptoms related to BPH can also be associated with other health problems such as prostate cancer, your doctor may want to carry out further tests just to dispel any other health concerns. These tests may include:
- Prostate cancer test, which involves a blood test for PSA.
- Urine infection tests, where you will provide a urine sample to your doctors. Urine infections are known to result in similar symptoms.
- An examination of the other urinary tract organs such as your kidney to ensure they are working normally. This will involve a blood test as well as an ultrasound of the tubes and kidneys.
What treatment options are available for my enlarged prostate?
Despite its stressful and worrisome symptoms, BPH itself is not that dangerous. And will never result in prostate cancer. So, depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may decide not to seek any treatment.
Even if you don’t want to be treated, it is always a good idea to visit your doctor for relevant advice. Your healthcare provider may give you advice on how to manage and live with BPH. These may include making relevant lifestyle changes such as reducing your fluid intake at night, emptying your bladder before retiring to bed, limiting your consumption of both alcohol and caffeine. You may also be advised to stop using some drugs why might lead to acute urine retention.
However, for those seeking to treat their BPH condition, there is a range of medications which help to relax the bladder neck and prostate muscles or reducing the growth of the prostate.
The Bottom Line:
If you think that you might be suffering from BPH, and your symptoms are making your life stressful and uncomfortable, it is high time you seek medical intervention. Though BPH is generally less dangerous, it can sometimes lead to serious complications such as inability to urinate, bladder stones, and kidney failure. Thankfully, numerous treatment options can successfully reverse or alleviate your symptoms. You only need to visit your doctor, and you will discuss your symptoms with him and recommend the most appropriate treatment.
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