Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia

Benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH, can happen when a small gland called the prostate causes bladder problems in men. BPH is very common in older men. By age sixty, the majority of men have at least some symptoms of BPH.


The prostate is a small gland that's part of the male reproductive system. It sits just below your bladder, which stores urine, and in front of the rectum.

During ejaculation, the prostate squeezes fluid into your urethra, the tube that sends urine from the bladder out of the body. The fluid protects the sperm, and is part of the liquid that make up semen

In young men, the prostate gland is about the size of a walnut. But it continues to grow throughout your adult life.

As the prostate gland grows, it starts to press on the urethra, like a clamp on a garden hose. It also presses on the bladder and irritates it. Over time, the wall of the bladder weakens, and the bladder is unable to completely empty.


Benign prostatic hyperplasia can cause symptoms such as:

  • Urine stream stops and starts
  • A sudden urge to urinate
  • Urine leakage or dribbling
  • A sudden inability to urinate at all, or
  • More frequent urination, especially at night

Most of the time, these symptoms are caused by BPH. But more serious conditions, such as prostate cancer, can also cause these symptoms, so it's important to see your health care provider.

If BPH becomes more severe, it can cause problems such as:

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Kidney damage
  • Bladder stones, and
  • An inability to control urination


If you have symptoms of BPH, your health care provider will ask about your medical history and give you a physical exam, including a digital rectal exam.

During this exam, your health care provider will insert a gloved finger into your rectum. This allows him or her to feel the size of the nearby part of your prostate.

Your health care provider may recommend certain tests, like a urine flow study, to measure how quickly your urine flows.

You might also need a prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, blood test. This test can help rule out prostate cancer.

You may also have a cystoscopy ["si-STOS-kuh-pee"]. During this test, a thin, flexible tube is put into the urethra through the tip of your penis. This test lets your health care provider see inside your urethra and bladder.


You might not need any treatment if your symptoms are mild. Your provider may keep watch on your symptoms instead. But you may need treatment if your symptoms are giving you a lot of trouble.

The most common kind of treatment is medication. Some medications can help slow prostate growth. Other medications can help relax your bladder and prostate, to let urine flow more easily.

Surgery to remove part of the prostate is another option for many men. This often relieves the incomplete bladder emptying caused by BPH.

The most common type of surgery doesn't need an external cut. Instead, a doctor removes part of the prostate through your urethra.

A procedure called ablation can be done to destroy part of your prostate. This procedure uses a heat source to damage the part of the prostate that's causing problems.

Things to Remember

Benign prostatic hyperplasia often causes urination problems in older men.
Your health care provider might need to rule out more dangerous causes of your symptoms.
You may need treatment with medication or surgery.

What We Have Learned

When BPH is severe, it may cause serious problems like kidney damage. True or false? The answer is true. If you can't urinate, the urine can back up into the kidneys and cause serious problems.

Surgery is the only treatment option for BPH. True or false? The answer is false. Medications and other procedures can also be used to treat BPH.