What is benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)?

Quick Answer
An enlarged prostate gland.
Expert Answers
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Related conditions: Prostate cancer, urinary retention

Definition: Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) refers to an enlarged prostate gland. The prostate is a reproductive gland in men that produces semen, the fluid that nourishes and transports sperm. It is about the size and shape of a walnut and is located below the bladder. The gland surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine outside the body. The prostate grows in size in most men as they age.

Risk factors: Increasing age and a family history of BPH contribute to the risk of developing this condition.

Etiology and the disease process: The exact cause of BPH is unknown. It is not cancerous, nor does it increase the risk of developing prostate cancer.

Incidence: Approximately 50 percent of men between the ages of fifty-one and sixty and 90 percent over age eighty develop BPH. About half of all men diagnosed with BPH have moderate to severe symptoms.

Symptoms: The enlarged prostate presses down on the urethra and irritates or obstructs the bladder. Common symptoms include frequent urination two or more times per night, a sudden urge to urinate, a weak urine stream, dribbling after urinating, straining to urinate, the inability to prevent urine leakage, or the sensation that the bladder is not empty even after urinating. In extreme cases, urinary retention, the complete inability to urinate, is a problem.

Screening and diagnosis: The evaluation typically consists of a complete medical history, a digital rectal exam to feel the size of the prostate, a urinalysis to check for blood or infection in the urine, a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test to screen for prostate cancer, and questions to assess the severity of symptoms. Additionally, urine flow rate, a post-void residual urine test, a pressure-flow study, an x-ray of the urinary tract, or cystoscopy (a test using a scope inserted into the urethra and bladder) may be recommended.

Treatment and therapy: Depending on the severity of symptoms, treatment can include lifestyle modifications, such as decreasing the intake of fluid before bedtime and limiting the consumption of alcohol and caffeine, or medication to increase urine flow. In extreme cases, surgery to remove part of the prostate may be recommended.

Prognosis, prevention, and outcomes: Many men with BPH have only minor symptoms and are able to manage their discomfort with lifestyle modifications. A yearly exam is recommended to monitor symptoms and the impact of BPH on daily life.


Alan, R., and A. Carmack. “Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia.” Health Library. EBSCO Publishing, 1 Aug. 2014. Web. 12 Sept. 2014.

Bachmann, Alexander, and Jean J. M. C. H. de la Rosette. Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia and Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms in Men. New York: Oxford UP, 2012. Print.

Chapple, Christopher R., John D. McConnell, and Andrea Tubaro. Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia: Current Therapy. Malden: Blackwell, 2000. Print.

Kirby, R. S., and Peter J. Gilling. Fast Facts: Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia. Abingdon: Health, 2011. Digital file.

Rosario, Derek J. P., Scott A. MacDiarmid, and John E. T. Pillinger. Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia. Philadelphia: Elsevier, 2005. Print.

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