An enlarged prostate can cause all kinds of trouble—from interrupted sleep to prostate infections to kidney damage. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), as this condition is called, is the most common prostate problem in men over 50.
The prostate is a walnut-size gland that sits under the bladder. The urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the penis and out of the body, runs through it. The prostate manufactures half of the fluid that makes up semen, which it secretes into the urethra before ejaculation.
When the prostate enlarges, it becomes more difficult for urine to pass through. Because the bladder has to squeeze harder to eliminate urine, a man with an enlarged prostate may feel as if he has to urinate more often. Sleeping through the night may become a thing of the past. Other symptoms of BPH include difficulty starting the urine stream, decreased force of the stream and dribbling after urination has stopped.
Eventually, an enlarged prostate squeezes on the urethra so much that the bladder is strained, leaving it incapable of completely emptying itself. As time goes on, this situation can cause urine to back up into the kidneys, possibly leading to kidney damage.
BPH can be treated with medications designed to shrink the prostate gland or to relax the tissues around the gland. If medication doesn’t help improve the flow of urine, surgery to reduce the size of the prostate may be required.
Anyone with symptoms of BPH should see his healthcare provider. Together with attention to personal habits, medical care can ease symptoms and help prevent the potentially serious complications of BPH.