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What Is Enlarged Prostate or Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BHP)?

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is better known as an enlarged prostate gland. It's the most common prostate problem for men over age 50. For men, getting up several times a night to go to the bathroom may stem from BPH.

The prostate gland is a walnut-sized organ in front of the rectum, below the bladder. It produces part of the seminal fluid, which carries the sperm. When it grows too big, it can restrict urine flow.

The exact cause of BPH is unknown, but hormonal changes likely play a role.

BPH is not a cancerous condition – nor does it progress to cancer – but it can be bothersome and lead to urinary tract infections. Other potential complications include kidney failure, bladder stones, and blocked urine flow.

What Are the Signs of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia?

Some men have BPH and never develop symptoms because their urine flow is not blocked. Others have one or more of the following:

  • Weak or slow urine flow.
  • Dribbling at end of urination.
  • Inability to empty the bladder completely.
  • Incontinence, or accidental loss of urine.
  • Pain during urination.
  • Urinating often, especially at night.
  • A strong, sudden urge to urinate.
  • Having to strain to begin urine stream.

Risk Factors for BPH

Any man can get BPH, but you're more likely to develop it if you have any of these risk factors:

  • Being 40 or older.
  • Family history of BPH.
  • Heart disease.
  • Type 2 diabetes.
  • Obesity.
  • Sedentary lifestyle.

How Do Doctors Diagnose Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia?

Your doctor will ask about your medical history and perform a physical exam to rule out kidney or bladder abnormalities. A rectal exam will help your doctor determine the size of the prostate.

Other tests may include:

  • Blood tests.
  • Pre- and post-massage test.
  • Post-void residual urine test.
  • Ultrasound.
  • Urinalysis.
  • Uroflowmetry.

What Is the Treatment for BPH?

A urologist may help to relieve symptoms of an enlarged prostate through the following treatment options.

Watchful waiting

If your symptoms are mild, your consultant may recommend watchful waiting. That means getting annual checkups, rectal exams, and other tests. Lifestyle changes may also be suggested, such as:

  • Limiting caffeine and alcohol, especially in the evening.
  • Emptying your bladder completely when you pass urine.
  • Not waiting for long periods of time before using the toilet.
  • Eating a healthy diet and losing weight if you need to.
  • Staying active (being sedentary contributes to urinary problems).

Drug therapy

Your consultant may prescribe medicine to shrink or slow the growth of the prostate. Sometimes a combination of medicines works best.

  • Alpha-blockers relax the prostate and bladder neck to improve urine flow.
  • 5-alpha reductase inhibitors block the production of the male hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which may cause prostate growth.
  • Phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors are erectile dysfunction drugs that relax muscles in the lower urinary tract.


Urology consultants at UPMC specialise in the following minimally invasive treatments for BPH:

  • Transurethral needle ablation (TUNA). A catheter is inserted into the urethra. The catheter sends small needles into the prostate tissue. The needles give off high frequency radio waves that heat and destroy the tissue.
  • Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) and Green Light Laser TURP. A narrow tool with a wire loop is passed into the penis and through the urethra to the prostate gland. Electricity passes through the wire, heating it and cutting the obstructing prostate tissue.
  • Photoselective vaporization of the prostate (PVP). A laser to destroy excess prostate tissue.
  • Prostatic urethral lift. Doctors insert a small implant into the prostate that compresses the tissue, allowing better urine flow.

Our Consultants

View our list of urologists who treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).

Contact Us About Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) Treatment at UPMC

If you have questions about your urologic health or are experiencing symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate or BPH, visit your GP and ask for a referral to one of our urology consultants at: