Below the Belt Health for Men:  BPH

Below the Belt Health for Men: BPH

Benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) is a condition that affects about 50 percent of men from the age of 50-60 and up to 90 percent of those over the age of 80.  The troublesome symptoms are due to a benign (non-cancerous) enlargement of the prostate gland, often slowing the stream of urine, or making it difficult to pass urine at all.  As the prostate enlarges it squeezes down on the urethra, which is the tube from the bladder to the opening at the tip of the penis.  The secondary effect is a thickening of the wall of the bladder itself.  The two conditions attribute to the troubling symptoms that may interrupt the sleep, or make it difficult during the day, as well.

Common symptoms of BPH are:

            Incomplete emptying of the bladder

            A sense of urgency to empty the bladder

            A weak stream

            Stopping and starting during urination

            Trouble starting the stream of urine

            Straining to urinate

The diagnosis is made by both the symptoms and the examination, which although you certainly don’t look forward to it, it is necessary.  It is important to assess if the prostate for other symptoms or concerns that are more serious or need a different treatment, such as infection. Other possible tests would be a urinalysis to see if an infection is the cause, as well as a prostatic specific antigen blood test.

Treatments vary and are based on need.  Mild cases may be monitored for signs of worsening.  Medications are often used to relieve the symptoms, relaxing the muscles of the prostate and bladder (alpha blockers, like doxazosin), or block the male hormone that can cause the prostate to enlarge (5-Alpha reducatase inhibitors, like finesteride, which can shrink the prostate).  For severe cases, surgery might be performed. 

Although there are supplements and other complementary ways of treating BPH, research has not been able to prove their usefulness.  Perhaps you have heard of the use of saw palmetto, or even raw pumpkin seeds for this, for example.  I have cared for many international patients, who have many home remedies, but cannot confirm their effectiveness at this time.

If BPH is a concern, you can use this tool to check your symptoms, and take it with you to the appointment to discuss further:

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