Donald Greene, 58, kept having to urinate frequently and when he did, he needed to strain to start the flow. “Since my father had prostate cancer, I kind of hesitated to see a urologist about my issue fearing the worse,” says the Charlotte, North Carolina resident. Luckily Donald’s wife kept after him, and he finally went for a medical check-up. The diagnosis, an enlarged prostate.

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or enlarged prostate affects some 50 percent of adult men aged 51 to 60 years of age and as many as 90 percent of those aged 80-plus. Black men have a higher chance of experiencing BPH symptoms at a younger age than white men.

One thing that is important to note is that BPH does not cause prostate cancer or affect a man’s ability to have kids.  

What is BPH?

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that makes up part of the male reproductive system and helps produce semen. It sits below the bladder and in front of the rectum. When the prostate grows larger, which happens to virtually every man, it can squeeze the urethra (the tube through which urine flows from the bladder) and make it difficult to urinate.

What are the signs of BPH?

The signs of BPH can range from mild to severe, but they should never be ignored! Not going to a medical practitioner to check out your symptoms can result in urinary retention and cause bladder, urinary tract and kidney problems.

Symptoms of BPH can include:

  • an urgent need to urinate
  • frequent urination especially at night
  • urinary start issues
  • straining while urinating
  • a weak or stop-and-go urine flow
  • feeling like your bladder is full even after urinating
  • blood in the urine
  • an inability to urinate at all

Who is at risk?

All men are at risk for developing BPH at some point in their later lives, but there are some more than others who might have to battle it often and sooner.

As mentioned, Black men have a higher incidence of BPH and it strikes them at a younger age. Men who are obese can increase their risk of developing the ailment. If a man has a family member like a father or brother who has had BPH, this puts them at a higher risk of developing it. Diabetics who take beta blockers (prescription meds to treat heart disease and other conditions) are also at a higher risk of BPH.

How is an enlarged prostate diagnosed?

BPH can only be diagnosed by a medical doctor before any course of action can be prescribed.  Here are a few ways in which BPH can be diagnosed; the treatment options are arranged from the least invasive to more intense:

Digital rectal exam: a doctor will insert a gloved finger into the rectum to examine the size of the prostate

Urinalysis:  a urine sample will be taken and tested to rule out infections or other issues

Prostate Specific Antigen Test (PSA):  blood will be drawn to check for prostate cancer and an enlarged prostate

Urodynamic tests:  a group of diagnostic testing to evaluate the lower urinary tract

Cystoscopy:  a small flexible fiberoptic camera is inserted into the urethra and bladder to evaluate the anatomy of the urethra, prostate, and bladder

Treatment options for BPH

Your doctor might opt for any one of these treatments depending on BPH’s severity.  Doctors might also choose to use two meds to treat BPH because doing so has been proven to be more effective:

Alpha Blockers:  relaxes the smooth muscle around the bladder and within the urethra

Inhibitors:  reduces prostate size and eliminates blockage

Laser surgery: uses energy to destroy prostate tissue and shrink the prostate

Transurethral incision of the prostate (TUIP):  surgical procedure that reduces the prostate’s pressure on the urethra so that easy urination can occur

Open prostatectomy:  surgical procedure used to remove the enlarged tissue from the prostate

Transurethral Microwave Therapy:  a controlled dose of microwave energy is delivered to the prostate to open blockage

Transurethral Needle Ablation:  low radio frequency energy is delivered to the prostate to get rid of excess tissue

Laser Vaporization:  a high energy laser blasts the enlarged prostate obstruction to clear the urethra